Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
In October 2009, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California failed mothers and children with the veto of two breastfeeding advocacy bills. After passage of both bills, by both houses of the California legislature (by comfortable majorities on all four votes), he still chose to go out of his way to deny nursing mothers support towards breastfeeding their babies.
California Senate Bill SB257 – Notification of Lactation Accommodations for State Employees
SB 257 provided that upon notification that an employee would be taking maternity leave, that employee would be notified of California law protecting her right to and providing accommodations for expressing breast milk upon her return. Legislative analysis indicated there was no cost (or negligible cost) related to this bill. There were numerous groups and arguments in support of this bill. There was no recorded opposition!
In his October 11 veto, Gov. Schwarzenegger states that "Current law already requires that accommodation be made for lactating employees. I do not believe it has been adequately
demonstrated that employees are unaware of their options."
However, in a press release by the California WIC Association, a non-profit formed by directors of local agencies of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), they state:
"But the bill sponsors introduced the legislation when they discovered that state employees are not routinely or universally informed of this right, and they talked to many who face challenges upon return to work. One employee in the California Department of Public Health expressed frustration when she returned to work, unaware of the possibility of expressing milk until she was informed by a fellow lactating mother."
If even one employee has been denied her legal right to breastfeed due to lack of information, how can the governor possibly justify vetoing a bill with no opposition and no fiscal impact simply because in his seemingly personal opinion, he doesn't think it is needed?
It was widely reported in the press that coming up on the deadline for this series of legislation, the Governor threatened the legislature with across-the-board vetoes of their legislative agenda as incentive to move forward on meeting his demands on water legislation. While if was of course, necessary for him to not veto all bills put forward in that session, he now holds, according to the Sacramento Bee, the dubious record of the highest percentage of vetoes of any governor in California history. He vetoed 229 bills, including SB257 as well as pro-breastfeeding bill AB513 (see my article on this veto in related links, below).
So it's possible that the Governor doesn't simply lack respect for breastfeeding mothers and baby's but simply considers our needs expendable as part of his greater goal of spanking the legislature for not obeying him on "more important issues." Either way, as a California resident and breastfeeding mother, I could not be more disappointed in our Governor.
For details on also-vetoed California Senate Bill AB513, regarding coverage of lactation consulting and breast pumps, see my related article, linked below.
Interested in learning more about the intersection of breastfeeding with politics and economics? You might find these two books useful: