SALT LAKE CITY — A bill asserting that women have a right to breast-feed in public passed a Senate Business and Labor Committee hearing by unanimous vote Monday.
HB196, titled the Breastfeeding Protection Act, states that "a woman may breast-feed in any place of public accommodation" as such places are defined under Utah law.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, said it would add another legal protection to breast-feeding women in addition to several laws already in place in the state.
In Utah, indecency laws exclude breast-feeding, nursing mothers are given certain exemptions from jury duty requirements, and employers can't ask an employee "to leave the premises when breast-feeding," he said.
"Yet the same employer can ask patrons to leave when breast-feeding," Fawson said, which his bill changes.
"My purpose here is to ensure that mothers aren't worried about the embarrassment of being asked to leave an establishment in our family-friendly state," he told the committee.
HB196 also "prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in places of public accommodation," according to the bill's summary.
Debra Coe, a representative with Mormon Women for Ethical Government, spoke to the committee in support of Fawson's bill.Comment on this story
"It's very important that we not be asked to go to a bathroom, which is very germy and multiple other problems in there, or go to a cold or very hot car to breast-feed our children," Coe said.
The Utah Women's Coalition also testified in favor of HB196, while the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce said it had no concerns with it.
The Utah Association of Retailers and the March of Dimes support the bill, Fawson said.
The committee voted unanimously to favorably recommend HB196 to the full Senate for consideration. The bill was approved last week by the House of Representatives by a 66 to 5 vote.