Breast-feeding women take on Target

‘Nurse-in’ supports public breastfeeding

By Nick Valencia, CNN
updated 10:28 PM EST, Wed December 28, 2011
Several women from Wilmington, North Carolina, take part in a national protest Wednesday after a mother in Houston was recently told to stop breastfeeding in a Target store.
(CNN) — A mother who says she was harassed and humiliated by employees while breastfeeding her baby at a Target store in Texas last month prompted a nationwide “nurse-in” on Wednesday to show support for the public practice.

Michelle Hickman, 35, says she was nursing her 5-month-old infant at a Webster Target when several employees asked her to move to the fitting room.

Texas law allows for breastfeeding in private or public, but Hickman says the employees continued to direct her to the dressing room even after she mentioned her rights.

“I was sitting down in the store in a remote area,” Hickman told CNN anchor Isha Sesay on Wednesday. “Not a single person came by that was a customer and I was completely covered with a large blanket. So I don’t see how they find it that offensive.”

Target said it has a longstanding policy of supporting breastfeeding in its stores.

“Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable,” Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson told CNN.

“Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms,” her statement read.

“We continually educate our team members in stores across the country on store policies to ensure all guests have a great experience. We worked with this guest directly to address her concerns and are sorry any inconvenience it has caused,” Carlson said.

In a show of solidarity with Hickman, women from Kansas to North Carolina to Florida held “nurse-ins” at Target stores.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, more than a dozen women sat comfortably on the ground with their legs crossed while nursing their babies, most of whom were covered by wraps or blankets. Similar scenes played out at Target stores in Sarasota, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; and Houston.

“Things like this are really wonderful because it takes a lot of mother-to-mother support and even though none of us know the mother in Texas, it’s just a matter of everyone pulling together and saying, it is OK, don’t feel bad about it,” Emily Barnhill, mother of an 18-month-old boy, told CNN Wilmington affiliate WECT.

A Facebook page created to show support for Hickman called “Target Nurse-In” had nearly 7,000 members by late Wednesday.

“Let’s show them just how many mamas they’ve offended. We have the right to shop and meet our babies’ needs while doing so,” the Facebook pages “about me” section said. “Public humiliation for doing so will not be tolerated,” it added.

Earlier this year, a Utah woman breastfeeding in a Whole Foods sparked a nationwide “nurse-in” after she said she was asked by employees to move locations. In early December, a nursing mother in Brighton, United Kingdom, invited a nursing “flash mob” to join her after she was told to stop nursing her baby in a cafe.

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Bill O’Reilly Joins the War on Women

O’Reilly Blames Women’s Health Care ‘Breast Feeding Stuff’ For High Unemployment

By Marie Diamond on Aug 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm, Think Progress

Fox host Bill O’Reilly has worked himself into a lather over the Obama administration’s recent decision to require new health insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays. Last week he declared that women don’t deserve government subsidized birth control because they’re too “blasted out of their minds” during sex to use it. Yesterday during an interview with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), O’Reilly went a step further in his tirade against women’s health care and said it was the reason businesses aren’t hiring:

O’REILLY: Now the federal government is ordering the health insurance companies to pay for all breast feeding stuff, all female birth control stuff, all preventative measures for doctors for ladies that go in. What do you think that’s gonna do? That’s going to inhibit hiring even more!

KUCINICH: Frankly, we ought to be very concerned about women’s health care.

O’REILLY: I am concerned, but they’re not going to expand and hire if they have to pay higher health care premiums for workers! Businesses aren’t going to do it…You can’t have both. You can’t have a welfare state and a robust capitalist system.

By “breast feeding stuff,” O’Reilly was railing about the fact that under the administration’s ruling, health insurers will be required to pay for a range of preventative care services, including HPV, DNA, and HIV screening, and the costs for renting breastfeeding equipment. Women’s premiums will actually pay for the services. But apparently conservatives like O’Reilly only support “family values” as long as the government never has to spend a dime to help poor women care for their children.

It’s also surprising that a professed fiscal conservative would be opposed to preventative health care for women, which not only improves the health of women and their families, but saves the government money when illness is caught and treated early on.

O’Reilly is wrong to suggest that women’s health care is the reason businesses aren’t hiring. Corporations are reaping enormous profits and sitting on a record pile of cash, but are still sending jobs overseas or hiring less than they were before the recession. Additionally, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, “the main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies.”