Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011

Woman Kicked Off a Plane for Breast Feeding

An ongoing legal dispute over public breast feeding began in 2006 when Emily Gillette said that a Delta Connection flight attendant told her to get off the plane when she refused to cover up while nursing her 22-month-old daughter. Gillette filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, claiming that she was sitting discreetly by the window with her husband in the aisle seat when a flight attendant gave her a blanket. After Gillette declined the blanket, she was escorted off the plane. The incident sparked "nurse-ins" at Delta counters across the country. And while both Delta and its partner Freedom Airlines, which operated Gillette's flight on behalf of Delta, have apologized and reaffirmed the right of women to breast-feed on their planes, Gillette filed a civil suit against Delta in the U.S. District Court in the fall of 2009. (Delta has not commented on whether the case was settled.)

Of course, the plane ejection was far from the only time a nursing mother has been asked to leave a public space. Women have even been asked to do their nursing elsewhere by that reliable mom haven, Starbucks. The incidents usually spark well-publicized outrage and inspire a bevy of breast-feeding women to descend on the site of the dispute in protest of the idea that nursing women should be banished to the ugly confines of a public-toilet stall — usually the only private area available. The whole thing usually ends up with an apology from the institution or business involved — after all, public breast feeding is protected under the law in most states and on all federal property. Just last week, Washington's Hirshhorn Museum had to apologize after a Smithsonian guard asked a mother move to a restroom to nurse.