No jury duty for nursing moms

September 2, 2008
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According to a recent article from the National Law Journal, more and more states have passed laws exempting nursing mothers from jury service. Indiana isn’t one of those states, although we have a new law in effect regarding nursing mothers at work. Under Indiana Jury Rule 7, judges can authorize the deferral of jury duty if the person summoned can show a hardship, extreme inconvenience, or necessity for not serving. Also, each county may have different explanations of who can be excused from jury duty – yet no county specifies nursing mothers.

So, it’s up to the judge to decide whether an Indiana mother who is nursing is experiencing a hardship, inconvenience, or necessity to be excused. If it’s an understanding judge, he or she may excuse the mother and defer her service, and a law exempting nursing mothers would be unnecessary. However, if the judge doesn’t view breastfeeding as a necessity or extreme inconvenience, perhaps a law would be a good idea. But whether nursing is a valid excuse to defer jury duty is up to the General Assembly to decide.

Some women could make a good argument that breastfeeding children is a necessity and should be a valid reason to defer jury duty, especially if they end up on a jury that is sequestered for days or even weeks. However, some women are able to breastfeed their children with little interruption in their lives outside of the home. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, recently told People magazine that she finds time to breastfeed in the middle of the night. If a politician traveling around the country campaigning can still nurse, can’t a mother who has been called to serve on a jury?
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  • Trying to balance breastfeeding with jury duty is a challenge I doubt even Sarah Palin would be able to handle!
    For starters, most courts would not allow an infant to be present with the mother. This leaves the option of pumping. Pray tell, WHERE would a mother be able to pump, given that courtrooms are not set up to accommodate nursing mothers as many workplaces are. She would most likely have to pump in a restroom... How many of you would like to eat a meal prepared in a BATHROOM?!
    In addition to the constraints of finding a place to nurse, another problem arises with timing. What happens when a mother needs to nurse and can\'t? She could end up leaking, causing her embarassment, or worse, she could end up in pain. Nursing women who can\'t express their milk when needed often get serious infections in their breasts and must seek medical treatment.
    Bottom line, then, WHY put a mother and baby through all of this when she can be allowed serve on a jury at a later time? Do the courts really want a nursing mother in their juries when they may be in pain?
    Also, Is it appropriate that Indiana state law currently allows deferral of nursing mothers to be decided by the whim of a jury clerk or a judge who may or may not have any knowledge in this area that is not in their primary field of knowledge...

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