RICHMOND, Va. -- Mothers raising babies in Virginia live in just one of three states without a law that protects them while breast-feeding in public.
Under current Virginia law, mothers are protected to breast-feed while on state property, but nowhere else. That leaves some mothers feeling like they could legally be asked to leave a restaurant, theater or other business for refusing to cover-up while breast-feeding.
A new bill before the 2015 Virginia General Assembly would expand that area of protection for breast-feeding mothers to "any place where the mother is lawfully present."
"We need a law like this to protect women because even though I feel fine breast-feeding knowing that I'm not protected and I may be asked to leave, not every woman is going to make that choice," breast-feeding mother Hilary Scribner said. "In general, a law like this would be a great start to changing cultural norms, but really we have more to do."
Scribner, who breast-fed her daughter Lorelei while answering questions about the breast-feeding bill, said while she has never been asked to cover-up or leave a room while feeding her baby, she knows people who have.
"Culturally, I think people think that we are supposed to cover-up if you're breast-feeding in public. A lot of babies don't want that," she said. "Children need to learn that this is exactly what breasts are for. It should be a non-issue. You eat when you're hungry. My baby should eat when she's hungry."
Virginia Delegate Dave Albo (R - Springfield) agreed.
Del. Albo, who sponsored HB1499, said a constituent informed him that Virginia was just one of three states without a law that protected breast-feeding mothers. Idaho and South Dakota are the other two states without the law.
"It just makes sense," Albo said when asked why he supported the bill. "Forty-seven other states have it, even Texas."
Albo said, for him, it came down to fairness.
"We have a lot of laws on the books that tell people what they have to do on private property, such as you can't discriminate based on race, you can't discriminate based on religion. This is just another law that says in a public place you should be allowed to breast-feed," he said.
Back at home, Scribner said she planned to breast-feed baby Lorelei as long as it was right -- for them.
Albo's bill has yet to be assigned to committee.