Feb 17, 2015 6:15 PM

Kevin Landrigan: Breastfeeding advocates try to learn from past failures


CONCORD - Breast-feeding advocates intend to learn from past failures and make happen a state mandate to give new mothers access at the workplace.

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, presented a total rewrite of her original bill to a Senate committee Tuesday.

The move was clearly meant to signal to the Senate Commerce Committee that she was open to any changes that wouldn't dilute the integrity of the bill.

For example, Clark said she's willing to let any business, private or public, to avoid the state mandate if it would be an "undue hardship."

This legislation is the type that business lobbyists try to kill by speaking to lawmakers in private but not during open testimony.

That's because support for breast-feeding is politically correct, and business leaders face the threat of being condemned if they come out against it.

David Juvet, executive vice president of the Business & Industry Association, said his business group takes no position but has "serious concerns" about whether parts of this legislation could be fairly enforced.

Kate Frederick, of Intervale, is the employee suing the state of New Hampshire for having fired her after she pursued the right to leave her state job and drive a short distance to her son's day care to breast-feed.

Frederick has become a national spokeswoman for the right to breast-feeding and recently starred at a news conference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

During an interview with NH1 News today, Frederick said a key part of a state law would be to alert company owners that a federal law already exists on the topic.

There is a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act that gives women the right to breast-feed while on the job.

Frederick's case is believed to be the first in New Hampshire to test this federal requirement.

After her son Devon refused to drink from a bottle, Frederick's doctor advised her to breast-feed him during the first 4 1/2 months of his life.

Her supervisor denied the request she get paid leave to visit the day care center during the work day, and said she had to breast-feed her son in public spaces at the workplace. Frederick asked why she couldn't use a private room where newborn mothers could use to pump breast milk.

A Department of Health and Human Services lawyer told Frederick having the baby in that space would be "too disruptive."

"She had to choose between breast-feeding her son and her job," said Benjamin King, Frederick's lawyer.

Frederick was fired Sept. 21, 2012. She is asking to be reinstated and receive damages.

The seven-count lawsuit charges the state with violating a provision of Obamacare that requires new mothers have reasonable accommodations to breast-feed their children.


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