- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Nursing mothers may soon be able to breast-feed their children in any public or private location in South Dakota as long as they follow other state and local laws.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday approved the proposal, which is aimed at addressing the concerns of breast-feeding advocates in South Dakota who say that the practice isn’t protected.

“It’s being handled in different ways depending on the situation, depending on where it is” currently, Republican Rep. Lynne DiSanto, who is sponsoring the proposal in the House, said in an interview.

Republican Sen. Phil Jensen, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the proposal is “about fairness and … about freedom.”

Advocates told the committee that infants are healthier if they are breast-fed and said that women shouldn’t be made to feel scared or stigmatized when they feed their babies in public.

Winner resident Rachel Vogt said when she used to visit her daughter’s day care to feed her, Lillace’s provider didn’t allow it. Vogt was forced to go out to her car to breast-feed her child until she eventually decided to switch to a friendlier childcare service.

“I just wanted to come in and feed my hungry child,” Vogt said. “I felt discriminated against.”

Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, called the proposal to address those concerns “a no-brainer.”

But Republican Sen. Craig Tieszen successfully changed the measure to require nursing mothers to obey state and municipal laws, mostly aimed at public decency. His amendment specifies that local governments couldn’t ban public breast-feeding as a safeguard. Tieszen said he’s a supporter of breast-feeding and that his changes would help the measure pass through the full Legislature.

“The last thing I want … is to be seen as the enemy of breastfeeding, because it couldn’t be any different than that,” he said.

Under the original plan, nursing mothers could breast-feed anywhere they were legally allowed to be. Jensen said he would have preferred the original, broader proposal, but breast-feeding advocates signed off on the compromise.

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