No matter who you are, nobody wants to have to appear in court for any reason.
Although the laws are there to keep society running smoothly, we all end up on the wrong side of the law at least in some circumstances. In some cases, people end up in court for very serious offenses that most of us will never have to deal with. Still, you may very well have to go to court for a civil dispute, a parking ticket dispute or even to serve on a jury.
Although we hope these instances go well, sometimes they just don’t.
One story in particular happened recently in North Carolina.
A woman named Danielle Bell was sitting in the back of a Johnson County courtroom because she was waiting for her case to be called. Bell was there because she’d received a traffic ticket for a seatbelt violation. As it turns out, Bell is the mother to her baby daughter Penelope, who was with her in the court that day. Before Bell went up, the bailiff informed her that she had to leave because children younger than 12 were not allowed in the courtroom.
Initially, Bell complied with the bailiff by bringing Penelope out to her husband, who was waiting in the hall.
When her case finally came up, Bell proceeded to the stand to face District Court Judge Resson Faircloth.
Once she was on the stand, she explained to him that she couldn’t leave Penelope at home because her daughter had to be breastfed and wouldn’t eat any other way. “This is the way she survives,” Bell said in an interview with WRAL. “She refuses a bottle. I felt discriminated against.” At the time, Penelope was in a sling and Bell was completely covered.
Regardless, Judge Faircloth didn’t agree. Instead, Faircloth allegedly told her that having childcare for Penelope was Bell’s problem, not his, and that if she had any other excuses, he would take Penelope away to Child Protective Services and put Bell in contempt.
After hearing those comments, Bell left the courtroom in tears.
Although Bell will return to the courthouse on May 20th for her case, she’s afraid of what will happen when she does.
Needless to say, there are plenty of different rules and regulations that come into question when hearing a story like this. Although it may be the rule of the court that children not be present, it’s also not illegal to breastfeed anywhere in the 50 states—including inside of a courtroom.
More specifically, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health writes that American mothers have “the right to breastfeed . . . wherever and whenever [their babies are] hungry.”
Although that’s a higher law, there’s also a more specific North Carolina law that would apply as well.
In fact, North Carolina law states it more explicitly:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.”
Though judges do have some degree of control over what happens in their courtroom, it may be the case that some kind of law was broken if Bell was actively trying to breastfeed and was prevented from doing so.
Still, we’ll have to leave the legal outcomes of this to the professionals.
Regardless, breastfeeding remains a very thorny issue in American public life for some reason.
Although it’s a completely natural and in many cases necessary thing for mothers and babies, many mothers deal with dirty looks and sometimes even illegal prosecution from state and public officials because of it. In our humble opinion, women who need to breastfeed in any reasonable situation ought to be able to do so, regardless of the level of coverage or how other people feel about it. But how do readers feel about this situation? Was Bell in the wrong or was Judge Faircloth in the wrong for suggesting he would take the baby away?
Let us know in the comments.
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