Springfield, Missouri Criminalizes Breastfeeding in Public because it might Offend Tourists

Wednesday, November 04, 2015
(photo: Getty Images; photo illustration: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

There will be no wardrobe malfunctions in Springfield, Missouri, if the city council has its way.


The city council rewrote the city’s indecency law to ban breastfeeding in public of children over 1 year old after two protests were staged in August by Free the Nipple, a group that advocates for gender equality. During the protests women and men appeared without their tops, but covered their nipples with tape, which was allowed under the old law.


Councilmembers then adopted a new law in September making it a crime to show “the female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification or which is likely to cause affront or alarm.” They said they changed the law because Springfield is “a ‘family friendly’ tourist spot, and the breasts of women undermine this mission.” Springfield is an hour away from the folksy tourist town Branson in the Missouri Ozarks.


The law exempts adult entertainment businesses and breastfeeding of infants, which are defined as less than 1 year old.


Free the Nipple and local residents are now suing the city with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.


The plaintiffs claim the new law violates the First Amendment, due process, equal protection, and conflicts with state law: It treats women differently than men, subjects them to an inferior legal status and criminalizes breast-feeding in public, Courthouse News Service reported.


“It feels like I’m committing a crime when my daughter’s supposed to eat,” Jessica Lawson, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, told Fusion. Her daughter Xena is 16 months old, and when she needs to be fed, Lawson goes into her car and tries to cover herself with her shirt.


“There’s this stigma about breastfeeding in general—people tell you to cover up or give you dirty looks or just whisper and point,” Lawson said. “I don’t want to make trouble…but it’s not fair.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Free the Nipple Fights Missouri City Hall (by Deb Hipp, Courthouse News Service)

ACLU Sues Missouri City over Indecent Exposure Law that Could Criminalize Breast-Feeding (by Casey Tolan, Fusion)

Springfield City Council Approves Tougher Indecent Exposure Standards (by Brian Vandenberg and Paula Morehouse, KY3)

The Battle over Nipple Exposure in North Carolina (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

See all 39 comments


logical 8 years ago
Just leave nursing mothers alone. They have enough on their plate already. Trying to stop the free the nipple protest could backfire. If they take this to the state supreme court they will probably win. If you pass a law to allow female toplessness you have the opportunity to keep the money out of the picture. Look at what is happening in times square. Is it really wise to possibly limit a woman's future over someone seeing a nipple? Intentional or not. If it is legalized you probably won't see it often anyway. If a young lady shows her breast after a few too many this could hang with her for the rest of her life. All in all just not worth it.
Sasha 8 years ago
As a mother who breastfed her son it is really not that difficult to use a cover. Most women who don't use a cover have their tit just hanging out for the world to see...all these ghetto, no class, women. And don't tell me I am "misinformed" when I have physically seen how they behave, and like the universe owes them a favor. Newsflash there are billions of mothers around who breatfeed there kids with a cover and have no problem...you are not the center of attention. Have some self pride and respect. Us mothers dont breastfeed in public to "prove a point", we breastfeed in public because our babies are HUNGRY. So ladies get out of the stone age, we have physically and mentally evolved for a reason. Use a cover. I used a cover when breastfeeding my son and guess what? No side comments or awkward stares, AND my son got fed. Everyone was happy. Problem solved. Common sense.
Cherie 8 years ago
“the female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification or which is likely to cause affront or alarm.” Walking around topless is not for sexual arousal or gratification. Now if someone is affronted or alarmed that is their problem. If men can go without their shirts so can women. Men had to fight for that right in 1934. Women also have that right unless some idiot lawmakers are embarrassed by a breast. And I would no stop breastfeeding my 3 year old in public just because of your stupid law. This is 2015. Get some common sense.
Cathy 8 years ago
You are all so misinformed! This has nothing to do with breast feeding . Our state law protects nursing mothers. We have a group of women with exhibition tendencies who want to walk around town topless...think Rumer Willis in NYC. They proceeded to walk through town with their breasts bare....nary a nursing mother in sight. It was offensive to families out with their children and many others, especially with their posse of lecherous male followers. Get a grip...would you want this in your town? The women wanted attention and their 15 minutes of fame, with the ACLU's help.
Steve 8 years ago
I visit my parents every summer in Springfield, where they moved a few years ago. I can assure you that as a visitor to the city, I am not more likely to want to come when I see these ridiculous laws being passed. I'd be much more interested in visiting American cities that believe in freedom and equality and are not stuck in the past. There are many great things about Springfield. The backward thinking of some of its less enlightened citizens is not one of them. Springfield residents, please grow up. Seeing a breast will not hurt you or your child. I have seen many of them in my life without being harmed. In fact, the human body is a beautiful thing. I'm sorry to see that these people think it's something to be ashamed of. Their parents must have really done a number on them.
Captain Obvious 8 years ago
I don't think you will ever hear the sentence: "I'm really looking forward to seeing all the Walmarts, Mcdonalds and sad unemployed people when I visit Springfield, Missouri for my vacation, I really hope I don't see anyone breastfeed their kid, that would ruin it for me."
Donna 8 years ago
Here is the correct info regarding the law allowing breastfeeding. The "free the nipple" controversy has nothing to do w/ breastfeeding. http://health.mo.gov/living/families/wic/breastfeeding/laws.php
Rachel 8 years ago
Just because your child turns one means they don't need to eat anymore?!?!? Bull C...!! I ebf my 10.5 month old which means when he turns one he is still accoustom to bm and will just be getting use to solids.
Paul Duggan 8 years ago
Melissa 8 years ago
If you read it says “the female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification or which is likely to cause affront or alarm.” For the purpose of sexual arousal!!!!! People we can still breastfeed our children, even if they are over 12 months old . I breastfeed my daughter and have 3 older sons I don't hid breastfeeding. But I am also not going to allow them to go down town with all the ladies and there tops off keep yourself covered unless breastfeeding. I agree with the new law Springfield is doing good on this issue.

Leave a comment