Sunday, May 6, 2012

Your Help Needed Now!!

Re-posting from a friend's site - please take the time to read and sign and/or take other action. No mother should ever be forced into this position.

"Midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, and the obstetric community:

 My name is Kristina French. I am a DONA certified doula and a Birthing From Within and Lamaze trained childbirth educator practicing in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State for the last five years. I would like to make birth communities aware of an issue that is happening in my hometown and a nurse-in we are having on Monday the 14th because of this issue (see below on how you can help).

Where several years ago, women were routinely excused from jury duty in Benton County of Washington State if they were breastfeeding, in the past year or two that policy has changed. Several area women have reported that they have been unable to be excused or get a long term deferral to a time where they will no longer be exclusively breastfeeding.

 A friend of mine is going through this as we speak. Here is Amanda’s story in her own words:

“I received my first jury summons in my first trimester of pregnancy while on modified bed rest. I replied to the letter, and they granted a deferral. I got my second summons when the baby was less than 2 weeks old. They granted another referral, but only until May (Baby was born at the very end of November). I called and was then told I was out of deferments and had no choice but to go. I explained that I would still be exclusively breastfeeding, and baby would be under six months old. She told me that she was sorry, the issue was out of her control and I had no other options. She told me I have to show up on the day, and speak with the judge, and the judge would ‘likely’ excuse me. I asked if I could bring my infant son with me, since he cannot be away from me. She said no, and if I did I could be charged with contempt. I asked what would happen if I didn’t go; she said I would be charged with a misdemeanor.

 I just received my new summons last week. The baby will be 5 ½ months old on the day I am supposed to report. Even if I were to go in and speak with the judge, it will still take several hours of being away from the baby. He has never had pumped milk, formula, or even a pacifier. He is 100% exclusively breastfed. My body doesn’t respond well to pumping, and I get next to no milk out. He eats every 2 hours, often times more (even at night). That’s way too long for him to go without nursing.

 I am in no way trying to “get out” of anything. I will gladly do my civic duties. I just don’t think it is right to put me in a position to have to choose to do my civic duties, be charged/treated as a criminal OR care for my infant son. I will not be breast feeding forever, and will report for jury duty with bells on when it does not interfere with the well being of my children.”

 As a community, her network of friends have decided to act and support her. While doing research, we learned that 12 states have family friendly jury duty laws. Washington State is not one of them. Family friendly jury duty is about more than breastfeeding. It accommodates not only breastfeeding mothers, but also at-home parents/guardians of young children, caregivers of disabled or elderly relatives, and those who depend upon them.

 Jury duty is a necessary right and privilege in our society. Those tasked with caring for the most vulnerable should not have to choose between the two. 

If you agree, here are ways that you can help:

 1) Please join and share the following Facebook page with all your colleagues and clients/patients: Family Friendly Jury Duty – Washington State - https://www.facebook.com/FFJDWA

 2) Read about the laws in Washington State that protect breastfeeding, as well as statements concerning the importance of breastfeeding from professional organizations: https://www.facebook.com/notes/family-friendly-jury-duty-washington-state/breastfeeding-and-summoned/339144026139245

3) At the time Amanda will be reporting for jury duty, we have organized a nurse-in. If you can, come, even if you aren’t currently nursing! But even if you can’t come, please share the event. It is public, and you can invite anyone: https://www.facebook.com/events/437355119626773/

 4) Sign the Change.org petition and share it: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-wa-state-senate-pass-family-friendly-jury-duty-legislation-in-washington-state

 5) Write your Washington State legislator: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/ and the Washington State governor: http://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/ Thank you so much for making a difference!

Kristina French, CD(DONA) and the Family Friendly Jury Duty in Washington State team

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