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.
The regulations, commissioned by the state legislature and written by the Virginia Department of Health, are largely unrelated to patient health and safety. They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet.
For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay. Further, Department of Health employees will be allowed to enter an abortion facility at any time without notice or identification.
Virginia Board of Health member Jim Edmundson tried to introduce a number of amendments on Thursday that would lessen the severity of the clinic restrictions and give some facilities a chance to comply. However, all but one of the amendments were rejected without a vote. For instance, he tried to distinguish between first-trimester surgical abortions and first-trimester medication abortions, so that the regulations would only apply to surgical procedures, but the amendment was not even seconded.
“The board is not even seconding proposed amendments being offered,” said Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia, who observed the comment and voting process in Richmond on Thursday. “They’re so intimidated by the presence of the attorney general, they’re not even allowing these things to come up for a vote.”
Health advocates say they are worried that women in Virginia could lose all access to abortions as a result of the new rules, which are scheduled go into effect by Jan. 1.
“Right now, none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.
Hurd told HuffPost that his one clinic that provides abortions would have to undergo “substantial and costly renovations” to comply with the new rules.
“I’m just amazed by their unrealistic and draconian views of how we’re gonna transition from a doctor’s office that provides abortions to a surgical center,” he said. “For us, the regulations are gonna be unduly burdensome and onerous, and they don’t reflect what’s necessary for patient safety. For others, it sets the stage for the closure of some high-quality health care centers.”
One major unintended consequence of these regulations is that if Planned Parenthood clinics and other health clinics that provide abortions are forced to shut down, they will be taking all of their other services with them, such as affordable pap smears, breast exams and birth control for low-income men and women.
State Sen. Ryan McDougle (R), the sponsor of the bill who directed the health department to draft the regulations, said the purpose of the bill “is to make sure that all medical procedures are done in a safe manner.” However, there are no other types of outpatient facilities that are being regulated as extensively as abortion providers, and according to the Virginia Department of Health, the first-trimester abortion procedure is already as safe as it possibly can be. Between 1999 and 2009, there was only one abortion-related death, compared with 11 deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2009 alone.
“It’s just utterly ridiculous, the regulations have nothing to do with patient health and safety,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “This is just an overreach to the nth degree.”
The temporary regulations are being sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell for review. If he approves them, they will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, for one year, after which they will be replaced by permanent regulations.
The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed the public a huge victory last Thursday, and giant corporations a rare loss, in their decision [PDF] on a case that (ironically enough, given the subject matter) most of the public knew nothing about, but one which has the potential to benefit real people with better quality news and information for decades to come.
The case, Prometheus Radio Project v FCC, pitted “Citizen Petitioners” who seek more persons owning local media outlets to ensure diversity in viewpoints and news coverage, versus “Deregulatory Petitioners” who want fewer persons (spell that “corporations”) to own local media outlets, and the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves that go with them, in order to enhance their profits.
At stake were the rules determining how many local TV and radio stations one company can own in a single market; whether a newspaper owner can also own a TV or radio station in the same town; and how broadcast ownership by minorities and women should be handled. (More)
The Huffington Post reports that “the Radiance Foundation, an Atlanta-based anti-abortion group, launched a billboard campaign on Sunday that compares abortion to the history of slavery in America. The 50 billboards — which were strategically erected on Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. — feature the slogan, “The 13th Amendment Freed Us. Abortion Enslaves Us.”
“Comparing abortion to slavery certainly raises major concerns,” Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, told HuffPost in an interview. “Women are not forced to have abortions the way they were in servitude. Slavery was about not having the right to make any decisions. Women were actually bred to produce children for the purposes of profit. This is so far removed from that, that if it weren’t such a serious issue, it would almost be laughable.”
But unfortunately, they always seem to come out as winners. The Washington Post just reported that the Supreme Court blocked the massive lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart on the grounds of sex-discrimination by local managers “in a decision that might make it harder to bring future discrimination lawsuits against large corporations.” The decision was unanimous in terms of the finding “that the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California should not have certified the class-action suit under a part of the federal law that allows for monetary awards, rather than simply forcing the company to change its allegedly discriminatory practices.” However, the liberal members of the Court were concerned about the discriminatory practices that the women were bringing to their attention: “But [Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg] said the women had presented ample evidence that there was a problem at Wal-Mart, where women fill 70 percent of the hourly jobs but make up only 33 percent of management employees.”
In a country where women make 77 cents to the dollar of that of their male counterparts, hold a minuscule portion of managerial positions (never mind CEOs), and the largest number of U.S. Senators that have served concurrently is seventeen, are we really surprised?
Perhaps it is about time that we recognize that women are a (powerful) majority in the United States and deserve nothing less than non-discrimination policies (and practices) in the workplace!