Mobile, Alabama mother, Jeanna Harris, was waiting in child support court for her proceeding and breastfeeding her hungry baby, when she says a bailiff confronted her and forced her to stop and leave. Ms. Harris, a mother of five, was shocked by the courtroom officer telling WPMI Local 15, “I started nursing her and the bailiff, or whatever he is came around the corner shaking his finger at me saying that I couldn’t breastfeed.” The mother of three-month old Ellie said that she first protested, knowing that she was within her rights to breastfeed in public, but then backed down and moved. “He was very rude and loud and threatening. He threatened to escort me out if I didn’t get up and leave on my own,” said Harris to WKRG News 5.
Jeanna Harris with 3-month-old daughter, Ellie (WKRG)
WKRG also spoke to the court officers involved in the incident who said that they received complaints from others in the courtroom and that they operated within Alabama law in asking Harris to move as long as they provided a new location. However Harris asserts, “That’s not what the law says. The law says a long as I’m welcome there, that I can nurse and I have a choice to leave if I want to. It does not say that I can be forced to leave.”
A look at Alabama code Section 22-1-13, confirms what Ms Harris said. The code concerning breastfeeding children in public or private locations reads: “A mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.”
Bay Haas Building in Mobile, Alabama (WPMI)
Further angering the 32-year-old mother was the fact that the room she was escorted to, a waiting room outside the courtroom, was occupied. Harris told the Alabama Media Group, “They moved me from one room that was filled with people to another room that was filled with people…So what was the point in moving me?”
WPMI spoke to District Court Judge George Brown, who proceeds in the child support courtroom. He said that court officers wanted to stop a courtroom disturbance and that he has never seen a woman try to nurse in his courtroom.
Hon. George A. Brown (Mobile County State Courts)
The stay-at-home mom emphasized that while she had no blanket to cover herself, no parts of her body were exposed while she was at the courthouse and she always makes efforts to cover up as much as possible when nursing. Judge Brown said that he will take reports of the situation and consider any complaints filed. Ms. Harris has hired an attorney for potential legal action. The mother is also planning to hold a “nurse-in” at the Mobile Government Plaza at an undecided date.