Women who are breast-feeding their children could be exempted from jury duty under a bill considered yesterday by members of the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee.
"Obviously, everyone here knows the difficulty it would cause to bring a child into the courtroom," said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican who is one of the bill's sponsors. "You can't really keep on a schedule when you're breast-feeding a child. It's on demand."
Other states - including California, Idaho, Iowa and Oregon - specifically exempt breast-feeding mothers from jury service. Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and South Carolina exempt parents who are home caring for children below a specified age.
Under current Maryland law, a judge can excuse anyone from jury duty if that person shows "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience," but only for the period of time the judge deems necessary.
This measure would guarantee a nursing mother would be excused from service. It would apply to all mothers who are nursing their children, until their children reach the age of 2. Jacobs said it was prompted by a complaint from a constituent.
A similar measure was introduced in 1995 but failed in a House committee.
More new mothers are breast-feeding their children as they learn more about its benefits, said Minor Carter, a lobbyist for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Breast-feeding is a very healthful thing to do," he told the committee. "We think this is a good bill."
The measure is not the only one related to breast-feeding that is under consideration by the General Assembly.
A bill to allow mothers to breast-feed their children in public is scheduled for a hearing next week before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
A similar bill passed the Senate in 2001 but died in the House.