Doylestown Borough to vote on breast-feeding law

Women will have their right to breast feed protected in Doylestown Borough, if the borough council votes tonight to support the anti-discrimination measure.

“This will be historic – we will be the second municipality in Pennsylvania with such a law,” Councilwoman Marlene Pray said Monday. “Philadelphia is the other. Seattle passed one earlier this year.” 

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Doylestown Borough Councilwoman Marlene Pray says the measure wil;l protect women's civil rights.

Pennsylvania has a Freedom to Breastfeed Act, but “there is nothing to protect a woman’s civil rights,” Pray said. “This will make sure a woman couldn’t be cited for indecent exposure.”

Doylestown’s measure, an amendment to the borough’s Human Rights ordinance, would provide a remedy for women when they are told to leave a public place or to go into the bathroom to breast feed.

A complaint could be filed at Borough Hall, and the borough’s Human Rights officer would look into it, said Pray, who also is chairwoman of the Community and Government Affairs Committee.

The complaint could be resolved by educating a store owner or employee about the woman’s rights, Pray said. Otherwise, officer Kelli J. Scarlett can mediate the complaint, and, when necessary, refer it to the borough’s Human Relations Commission.

The proposed amendment is a single sentence: "It shall be unlawful to prohibit a breastfeeding mother from or segregate a breastfeeding mother within any public accommodation."

The borough has received 27 letters supporting the amendment, including at least five from businesses, Pray said. “There have been none opposing it.”

Most of the letters have been from nursing mothers, she said.

 “There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment by being asked to leave or move when breastfeeding,” she said.  

Borough Council President Det Ansinn, who proposed the amendment, said in a text that he expects it to pass, “but with some vocal opposition by two members of council. The public has been supportive.”

The council voted 5-4 last month to advertise the amendment. Tonight’s meeting is scheduled for 7 at Borough Hall, 57 W. Court St.