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Bill unreasonably pumps too much from taxpayers

While laudatory with its emphasis on providing more and better options to encourage improved health among children, HB 313 by state Rep. Scott Simon places too many demands on taxpayers when much less expensive and disruptive solutions are available.

This bill would mandate that state buildings, exclusive of those for elementary and secondary education at the local level, must provide a private room with ample electricity and plumbing to allow breast pumping for women. Unfortunately, it is a solution that could cost taxpayers potentially millions of dollars in renovation costs now, and extra costs in future building, searching for an essentially nonexistent problem.

It’s helpful to understand what’s involved in this issue. First, note that Louisiana Revised Statutes 51:2247.1 essentially gives a nursing mother the right to breastfeed in any public accommodation in a manner not segregated from the rest of the public. Of the minority of women who breastfeed, the majority already enjoy this protection and need no special rooms for their ability to enjoy it. Thus, clients in state buildings or their employees who can have their babies brought into the workplace, even just during lunch hour, need no special room.

However, a small group of mothers need to pump breast milk, typically because they are away from their baby for extended stretches and want to store it for later. In reference to state facilities, this would apply to employees, because clients from the public seldom spend long stretches at these facilities (or if they do, the locations already have the means to assist them, such as at health care facilities) and can work around feeding schedules.

Further, of those state employees finding need to pump their breasts, which typically takes 10-30 minutes 1-3 times during the work day, many already can find arrangements to suit them. For example, many pumps can be operated by hand, batteries, or adapters for outlets such as in automobiles. Nor is it necessary to wash parts immediately, which can be bagged and washed later at the site or at home (excellent tips on developing these arrangements may be found here).

In fact, only in a rare special circumstance would there ever be a need for segregating a woman who pumps. That would be where speed and high volume are desired for a female who pumps multiple times a day, as the most complicated pumps, which are the fastest meaning shorter breaks, are somewhat noisy and cannot be run by hand or batteries. Even here, technology continues to improve that someday may make all pumps portable and quiet.

In short, all that’s really needed for the situation where a woman does not have a quiet space like an office, cubicle, or vehicle is that quiet space with a place to sit with electrical outlets. That can be as simple as the antechamber commonly found in many restrooms designated for women, janitorial areas (which seldom are used during the day), or an empty or storage room. No, they may not be that aesthetically pleasing of locations, but they’ll get the job done at little taxpayer expense.

Of the small number of women who want to pump, some women may complain this solution means less privacy than they would like, buying or renting more expensive equipment, or having to schedule more rigidly their activities. By why should these issues be resolved by offloading them onto taxpayers when perfectly reasonable solutions exist that involve only a little individual effort of women who, after all, chose breastfeeding over the alternative? Why must the cost of those choices be socialized onto taxpayers any more than is reasonable or necessary?

Much better legislation would simply mandate that some room closed to common traffic with a place to sit and outlets be made available on request. There’s even a question of the necessity of legislation, since it appears that, given it would apply only to employees, promulgation of civil service regulations could handle this. Simon himself has admitted as written that this legislation may be impractical for smaller buildings. At the very least, dramatic changes must come to this legislation, if it needs to be passed into law at all.


Anonymous said...

They are boobs. They are being used for what they were created for. Get over it, or put a blanket over YOUR head!

Anonymous said...

If you would educate yourself more on the matter you would understand that while the initial cost might seem substantial it is actually an investment on the future. There is a 3 to 1 return on investment when a business allows access to a lactation room. It lowers healthcare and insurance cost. These are just a few benefits to businesses. On the financial side one study suggests that the country would save around 13 billion dollars if 90% of women breastfed for the recommended 6 months. This is because the government pays for most formula bought.

Just because breastfeeding women are unfortunately the minority does not mean they should be discriminated against or forced to feel like they should not be allowed to make a decision that could impact their children for the rest of their lives.

Also, this was passed yesterday and they were able to do it with minimal cost to the state.

Jeff Sadow said...

The first commenter had it right. There's no need to bill taxpayers for something that need not cost anything. And if women don't want to be in public to do this, the post gives plenty of reasonable alternatives that cost taxpayers nothing.

As it was, the bill that passed was much more limited than what was proposed. Still, it will add some costs to the people, which are unacceptable given the alternatives.