Nursing Missouri Mothers Potentially Excused From Jury Duty

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JEFFERSON CITY - Under legislation moving through the Missouri Legislature, nursing mothers would be excused from jury duty with a written note. House bill 1320 also states nursing mothers cannot be penalized for breast-feeding in public.

The bill states, breast-feeding in public would not be considered an act of public indecency, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, or obscenity or any other similar term for purposes of state or municipal law.

According the current Missouri law, "a mother may, with as much discretion as possible, breast feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be."

The new bill only requires nursing mothers to use "discretion" rather than "as much discretion as possible."

Kristen Camp of Columbia, a new mom, was served with jury duty. She asked her doctor for a written note excusing her from jury duty because she is breast-feeding her 4-month-old. Camp mailed the jury notice, with a note from her doctor, back to the courthouse. Since the bill is not yet a law, the judge will have discretion over whether Camp will be required to serve on the jury.

Camp breast-feeds her daughter every three hours and said jury duty would not only be disruptive to the baby's health, but the mother's as well.

"It's easy for other people to think oh just pump, or oh just bring your baby into the courtroom, or oh just leave your baby at home and figure something out, but there's so much more that goes into it," said Camp. "This is my baby's health, this is my baby's life, you know. I want us to be able to give her the best we can possibly give."

Legislation comes after Mo. mother Laura Trickle was charged with contempt of court when she was called to jury duty in a Jackson County court.

Trickle was told she could to arrange for child-care or to bring someone along who could care for the child the day of her summons. Instead, Trickle showed up to court with her child hoping to get an exemption. Judge Marco Roldan then told Trickle she could pump or nurse on breaks.
Trickle denied Judge Roldan's options and was charged with a $500 fine. The fine was later dismissed.

If House bill 1320 is passed, local governments could not enact counter ordinances restricting breast-feeding.

The bill gained its last round of approval from the House on Thursday and will now move to the Senate.