Pia urges House: Support breastfeeding

News Release
30 August 2017

Pia urges House: Encourage breastfeeding among nursing lawmakers, staff

Should the House of Representatives change its rules to allow its nursing women members to breastfeed at work? Yes, even right inside the session floor?

Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano thinks so – saying that this will send the message that breastfeeding is a normal act that should be encouraged in the workplace.

In a privilege speech on Tuesday night, the Taguig City representative urged the chamber to follow the lead taken by parliaments in other countries that openly allow their female nursing members to breastfeed while in plenary.

During her speech, Cayetano showed to the chamber photos of women members of parliament (MP) in Australia, Iceland and Argentina, who are seen in session breastfeeding their young, while also performing their legislative duties.

She recalled how the Australian parliament came to allow breastfeeding in plenary in its rules, dating back to a controversial incident in 2003, where MP Kirstie Marshall, along with her 11-day-old daughter, was escorted out of the chamber by the sergeant-at-arms.

Cayetano said that MP Marshall was led out of parliament at the time for violating ‘parliamentary protocol’ when she breastfed her baby inside the session hall. “(The incident) provoked a storm of debates about the rights of babies and women returning to work,” she noted.

She added that 13 years after the incident, the Australian Parliament voted (in 2016) to allow female lawmakers to nurse their infant inside the chamber.” She then showed a photo of the first lawmaker to benefit from the new rule: Queensland Senator Larissa Waters breastfeeding in plenary just last May this year.

Cayetano also showed photos of Argentinian MP Victoria Donda Perez, who was breastfeeding while attending session, and Iceland MP Unnur Brá Kon.ráðs-dóttir, who was delivering a speech in the podium while nursing her infant.

“These women MPs delivered a powerful message and, consciously or unconsciously, have become role models for other nursing moms in their respective countries,” she underscored.

“Your Honors, we have many members of Congress who have breastfed their babies or are currently breastfeeding. May I thus put forward the proposal that our rules clearly allow women members of Congress to breastfeed on the floor while session is going on,” she said.

Cayetano also urged the chamber to set up lactation rooms for nursing women employees of the House of Representatives, and to allow them to have paid lactation breaks at work, as mandated by the Expanded Breastfeeding Awareness Act (RA 10028).

“Society acknowledges and respects a woman’s unique ability to give birth to a child. But it is high time we give the same respect to breastfeeding – no jokes, no whispering behind our backs – but solid and unconditional support for this amazing gift that women have,” she concluded. #

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