The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 25, 2012

Panel approves public breast feeding

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — A Senate panel Friday approved a bill declaring that a child’s right to nurse in a public setting is “socially acceptable.”

Not only that, says its sponsor, Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, but breast feeding produces a healthier adult and saves the parents money that normally goes for formula.

For a brief time, SB4 contained an amendment that would have exempted prisons and jails, but this was removed after Cinny Kittle, representing the West Virginia Breast Feeding Alliance, objected.

The Charleston resident told the Senate Judiciary Committee that removing prisons and jails could ultimately doom the entire proposal.

Foster, a Charleston surgeon, said public breast feeding is permissible in 45 states, none of which excludes prisons and jails.

If the bill is enacted, Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said he would move to accommodate visitors at facilities in his agency.

Foster’s bill has been around for several sessions, but never has reached the governor’s desk.

“Breast-fed children clearly are healthier,” he said.

Foster alluded to health statistics showing such infants grow up with far fewer instances of allergies, obesity and infectious diseases.

“In the first year of life, from an economic standpoint, data from the American Academy of Pediatricians shows it costs $400 less on average for a baby that’s been breast-fed,” the senator said.

Foster noted that the savings in allowing a child to nurse would be in the millions of dollars.

The idea hasn’t been without some objections in the past.

Foster attributed this to people who tend to be “squeamish, the idea of women in public exposing themselves.”

But he suspects there is another motive driving the opposition.

“The big push is from the industry making the formula,” he said. “That’s where a lot of it’s coming from. They do a lot of advertising and have been able to convince women it’s just as good because they have a product they’re trying to sell. That’s where a lot of the resistance comes from.”

- The committee also approved a bill that creates a spay-and-neuter fund.

Funded with a $50,000 line item in the budget, and a special check-off on personal income tax forms, the intent is to reduce feral cats and stray dogs.

- Another bill would require hotels and motels to install carbon monoxide detectors, inspired by the recent death of an out-of-state resident in a Charleston-area motel.

- The same committee also approved a bill that criminalizes trademark counterfeiting.

This one was prompted by a recent uproar by West Virginia University over a firm that manufactured T-shirts with risqué messages and employed the familiar “WV” logo.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com