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You Can't Call Me for Jury Duty--I'm Breastfeeding!

By Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq.
LEAVEN, September-October 1994, p. 76

What does a breastfeeding mother do if she is called for jury duty? If she lives in Iowa, USA, she can be excused if she submits written documentation verifying that she is breastfeeding and responsible for the daily care of her child, and that she is not regularly employed out of the home, to be excused.

Section 607A.5 of the Iowa Code was amended effective July 1, 1994 to provide this exemption after a La Leche League Leader was called for jury duty every six months since her child was four months of age. She was excused twice, then told that she would not be excused again. She contacted an Iowa Senator whose wife was breastfeeding. He took immediate action by submitting a bill that resulted in the new law.

When the Leader appeared with her 16-month-old after the new law was in effect, the judge not only excused her, but stated that she would not be called for jury duty again until her child was approaching four years of age. If she was still breastfeeding at that time, the judge said they would work something out.

So, what does a mother do if she lives somewhere other than Iowa? Although I do not know of any other states or countries that exempt breastfeeding mothers from civil obligations, others may have exemptions that could apply to breastfeeding mothers. For instance, on request, Florida exempts all expectant mothers and all parents not employed full time, who have custody of a child under the age of six. (Fla. Stat. 40.013(4))

Breastfeeding mothers who are called to jury duty or expected to fulfill other civic duties should check the laws of their state or country to determine if there are any exemptions that could apply. If not, they can request that they be excused and educate the court about breastfeeding and separation.

Educating about breastfeeding isn't that hard. For example, a judge in Michigan contacted a local Leader requesting information on how long to excuse a breastfeeding mother from jury duty. The Area Professional Liaison (APL) responded to the request by providing information from the Innocenti Declaration recommending breastfeeding until age two or beyond, the effects of sudden weaning and the need for a mother to express her milk if separated, as well as information on mother/baby separation. She provided him with copies of LLLI's Statement from the UNCED Conference (1990), the LLLI Legal Packet on Jury Duty, and "Excerpts from Literature Dealing with Mother/Baby Separation". If the court or judge is not familiar with why breastfeeding is important, the mother could use "Breastfeeding Does Make a Difference" (No. 64) and "Facts About Breastfeeding 1994 (No. 545g).

Elizabeth N. Baldwin was an attorney and family mediator in private practice with her husband, Kenneth A. Friedman, in Miami, Florida. She died in March 2003 after an extended illness. Her family law practice primarily focused on protecting young, securely attached and breastfed babies in divorce cases. Elizabeth was also a La Leche League Leader, and a member of LLLI's Professional Advisory Board, Legal Advisory Council. She published numerous articles on breastfeeding and the law, and often spoke at conferences. She assisted hundreds of parents involved in breastfeeding legal cases, and provided information and help to parents, attorneys and other professionals dealing with these issues.

Copyright 1994, all rights reserved. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner nor for any other purpose without permission.

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