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