The sun was shining in Franklin Square Park last weekend when I headed toward the carousel for the Big Latch On 2015.
The Big Latch On is a worldwide event where groups of women come together at registered events in public places to breastfeed their babies. The goal is to celebrate breastfeeding, raise awareness of breastfeeding support within the community, and advocate for nursing women. Organizers of the Big Latch On imagine a world where every family was supported, nurtured by their community, and where breastfeeding is a normal part of life.
It was a record year for the Big Latch On: 14,536 children latched, at 654 events across 28 countries. The Franklin Square event was organized by Maternity Care Coalition, members of the PA Campaign for Women’s Health. Members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health attended several Big Latch On events across Pennsylvania to support breastfeeding women and share information about a bill called Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers.
Sanitary Conditions for Nursing Mothers (HB1100), sponsored by Rep. Mary Jo Daley, would require employers to provide a private, sanitary space and break time for employees who need to express breast milk. The bill is currently under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature, and is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.
The PA Agenda is a bold, pro-choice legislative package of bills sponsored and supported by the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers committed to promoting evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by Pennsylvania women and families.
The fact is that right now, nursing mothers in Philadelphia enjoy more workplace protections than women living elsewhere in the state. Pennsylvania needs policies that reflect modern reality: Not only do women work, but many women are both the primary breadwinner and caretaker for their family.
At the Big Latch On, women shared stories of the joy of nursing their babies, and the trauma of having to stop before they felt their child should because of challenges of expressing milk in the workplace. Many of the women nursed their babies before Philadelphia’s current law.
We believe all women across Pennsylvania deserve the right to pump milk at work in private, sanitary spaces, and that’s why we’re advocating for HB1100.
Founded in 1974, the Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center devoted to women’s rights in Pennsylvania.
Text: Tara Murtha, WLP Staff