Should Women Who Breastfeed or Have Small Children Be Exempt From Jury Duty?
by Lisa Fogarty
Few of us actually look forward to reporting to jury duty, but like good civic bees, we do what we must to keep our country's justice system functioning. But have you ever been asked to serve while you were in the middle of breastfeeding, taking care of your young children, and trying to keep your own family functioning? It can be an absolute nightmare to get around some state court's rules when it comes to jury duty and the responsibility of caring for children. And for one woman in Kansas City, her decision to bring her baby with her to court for jury duty so that she could continue to breastfeed may put her in contempt of court and cost her a $500 fine. Not exactly what you would call a just and fair ruling, is it?
Laura Trickle was given a choice when she replied to a court summons and stated she was breastfeeding and would be unable to serve at this time: according to Missouri law, she could either report to jury duty and use a private room to pump milk and store it so her son could feed from a bottle at home, or she could report to jury duty with her baby and a caretaker and use her breaks to breastfeed.
In the real world, these options don't always work out. Laura's son refuses to drink from a bottle -- something many of us can relate to -- and she either doesn't know of a caretaker whom she can trust or she can't afford to pay one for nine hours a day for, oh, however long the case may run! Laura did the best she could by bringing her baby with her to court. I mean, kudos to her for actually showing up, which is more of an effort than some people give. But the court didn't see it that way and now she has to report to her own court hearing to find out if she'll face penalties for not following directions.
Only 12 states currently exempt breastfeeding moms from serving jury duty, but we have to do better. Not only should all states pardon breastfeeding moms, there should also be an understanding that moms (and stay-at-home or work-from-home dads) of young children -- whether they breastfeed or formula-feed -- don't always have an easy time finding childcare solutions so they can serve jury duty.
My baby was 18 months old when I showed up to serve, and I had to practically beg lawyers not to put me on their cases. Because I worked part-time, the court deemed me fit to serve. But what they didn't get was that I didn't have a caretaker from noon until 5 p.m. or on Thursdays or Fridays and would have to pay for one -- for someone I didn't know or trust to watch my baby. The thought completely freaked me out and I guarantee my head wouldn't have been clear enough to properly judge a case.
Do you think women who breastfeed or have young children should be exempt from serving jury duty?