Breast-feeding measure advances in Senate

? One after another, state senators rose Wednesday to praise the values of breast-feeding and a bill that would allow a woman to breast-feed in public.

Without dissent, the Senate advanced the measure to a final vote today. If approved, the bill will then be considered by the House, which last year endorsed a version of the legislation.

“We believe it is healthy for the state to encourage mothers to breast-feed,” Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said.

Amy Swan of Lawrence was in the Senate gallery. “I thought it was great,” she said after the Senate action.

Swan has been one of the main promoters of the legislation after she was confronted at a Lawrence health club and told to stop breast-feeding her daughter in late 2003.

The bill before the Legislature would allow a woman to breast-feed in any place she has a right to be. It also would excuse women who are breast-feeding from jury duty.

Experts have testified that breast-feeding is healthier for infants, creates a bond between child and mother, and is less expensive than formula.

But in Kansas, many women have said they have been insulted, harassed and even threatened while breast-feeding in public.

Sen. Jean Kurtis Schodorf, R-Wichita, said women need the protection of the law.

“Sometimes when babies are hungry, you got to feed them,” she said.

Some lawmakers have insisted on putting in the legislation that women must “discreetly” breast-feed. But advocates of breast-feeding said that requirement would open up the law to many interpretations.

Swan said she would oppose any attempts to add “discreetly” to the bill.

“It would be worse than having no legislation at all,” she said.