Friday, January 04, 2008

ACLU supports Breastfeeding in Art - and in life

[I have edited and added brackets to this ACLU letter from Vince Gonzales, Pres. Lubbock Chapter, ACLU, sent out by Linda Smith]
ACLU of Texas, Lubbock Chapter, Denounces City of Lubbock Censorship of Lahib Jaddo artwork.

January 2, 2008, Lubbock, TX: The ACLU of Texas, Lubbock Chapter, was and is greatly disturbed by the recent action to censor certain sketches designated for exhibit at the Buddy Holly Center. The ACLU is opposed to censorship in all its forms, and believes that the right to choose what we see, hear, and read is one of our most vital freedoms. But more importantly, we have heard the outcry in our community regarding the logic, or rather illogic, of censoring the sketch of a nursing mother and child, and the message such censorship sends to our community.

Scott Snider, a member of the City Manager’s Office for the City of Lubbock, decided that artwork depicting a nursing baby was unacceptable for display at the Buddy Holly Center during the First Friday Art Trail, because he deemed it inappropriate for a general viewing audience without actually viewing the art. It's interesting that U.S. federal law protects nursing on all federal grounds, and Texas law explicitly protects the right of a nursing mother to nurse anywhere she has a right to be, which makes a clear case that neither federal law nor Texas law consider breastfeeding to be an act that is "inappropriate for a general viewing audience." Mothers are free to breastfeed in offices, parks, libraries, amusement parks, churches, and everywhere else, where they are likely to be seen by a much wider "general viewing audience" than the Buddy Holly Center, and that is supported by federal and state law. ...

Formula-feeding increases risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome, certain types of childhood cancers, necrotizing enterocolitis, allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life, and many more ailments. [At least] 500 babies a year in North America die as a direct result of being formula-fed. Promoting the myth of breastfeeding being indecent has serious ramifications for the most vulnerable members of our society. ...

[T]he policy set in place by Mr. Snider and the City of Lubbock government is decidedly anti-breastfeeding and thus anti-family. Now that this issue exists, it has come to our attention that mothers throughout the community have been discriminated against and made to fell as second-class citizens for doing what is best for their children, breastfeeding.

In summation, .. neither federal nor state law considers breastfeeding an obscene activity or something that needs to be shielded from children or the workplace; The City of Lubbock would be hard-pressed to find a better arbiter of decency than the law itself. If the laws protect the right of a mother to breastfeed in a public park a few feet away from children, I fail to see how a sketch of a breastfeeding baby is a greater risk to a "general viewing audience." If the laws protect the right of a mother to breastfeed sitting at her desk in an open-concept office, I fail to understand how a sketch presents a risk to those viewing at work. If we are to rate artwork as acceptable based on a standard of if they will offend a small segment of people, then I suspect a vast majority of artwork would have to be deemed unacceptable.

To that end, at 6 p.m. Friday, January 4, 2008, in cooperation with the Lubbock Chapter of the ACLU, Birth Without Borders Intl., financial support of Dr. Gary Miracle and Tobyn Leigh, and the moral support of Mothers Acting Up, a nurse-in will be held in Lubbock, TX. The time has been chosen to allow working mothers (who face unique problems when breastfeeding their children) to participate. The location will be announced Friday morning.

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