Michigan mom Natalie Hegedus had to go to court over a minor ticket she got during the summer, and as we all know, court dates are pretty hard to "reschedule." Especially last minute, which would have been her choice when her breastfeeding baby, Landen, had an ear infection. He had a fever, too, so he wasn't allowed to be at daycare that day. At some point after waiting over two hours for her turn with the judge, her son wanted to eat (surprise!). While sitting in the very back of the courtroom, she lifted her shirt, breasts still totally covered, and fed him.
Between the court bailiff and Judge Robert T. Hentchel, what happened to Hegedus that brought her to tears, humiliated her, and ended up with her kicked from the court room makes feel me terrible for her, and brings out my well-worn "nursing in public laws" soapbox, since, well, I'm pretty sure the judge broke a state law.
Obviously, she wasn't making a scene here. A breastfeeding baby is a quiet baby, and she was in the very back of the courtroom as well. But the court bailiff, upon seeing her there in the back, wrote a note to the judge and placed it before him. When the judge called her up, he decided to insult her choice to breastfeed, in front of everyone there.
Obviously, Hegedus is well within her legal right to nurse. After being rudely asked if she thought it was "appropriate," to which of course she said he was hungry and sick, and no, she didn't find it inappropriate, the judge announced it was his courtroom and every judge has to have rules and he found it inappropriate.
The Chief Judge of the district court was questioned about the incident and he said:
I'm not defending this judge, I just don't think it is a story. This is abuse of the information age. A one to two sentence exchange has now turned into a national story.
Abuse of the information age? You mean, it's sad that a woman was able to take her story publicly so easily and get much deserved support? There is now a petition for the judge to be reprimanded in some way, a move I totally support. Welcome TO the information age. Her situation isn't unique either; women in the past, even so recently as last year, have even been kicked out of courtrooms by the judge, solely for breastfeeding their kids. Moms are discriminated against for breastfeeding far too often. Especially considering the law says she has the right to breastfeeding anywhere she can be with her baby, which includes a taxpayer funded, government property court room, Sir Judge.
Look, I know this soapbox is well worn, but really? If you would give your baby a bottle somewhere, they can breastfeed there too, and women just need to be left alone! It's so hard to be in a country where we're beat over the head with the "YOU MUST BREASTFEED!" stick, but then instantly faced with trial after trial, obstacle after obstacle, to the point where it's more socially acceptable to fail at nursing than it is to continue past the recommended minimum. And things like this, women being constantly treated like crap for doing the best they can, and embarrassed publicly by a man who should be a respected and professional public servant, doesn't help one bit.
Big hugs from me, Natalie Hegedus. You keep on nursing that baby where and when he needs it.
Do you think the judge was out of order?
Image via Keith Burtis/Flickr