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Ohio may exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty

Breastfeeding mothers would be exempt from jury duty under a bill introduced in the Ohio Legislature by Rep. Ann Gonzalez, R-Westerville.

She introduced the bill after hearing from a constituent who could not get excused even though she needed to breastfeed her baby.

“A constituent came to us and she was forced to be in a broom closet, that was the location for her to breastfeed,” said Alex Landefeld, legislative assistant for Gonzalez. “We saw many other states have laws that put nursing mothers on the physical hardship (exceptions list) so they can be excused from jury duty.”

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court officials do not recall a potential juror asking to be excused because of the need to breastfeed, but said they already accommodate nursing mothers for regular jury duty as well as the longer grand jury term.

“We’ve not had that issue here. The jurors that are breastfeeding are allowed to bring their machines – they come with their pumping machines and bottles. We have a place for them to pump and the jury rooms are equipped with refrigerators so they can store their milk,” said Vanessa Carter, deputy court administrator for Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Facilities are also available for court employees.

Gonzales’ bill, known as House Bill 13, would require the nursing mother to bring a signed affidavit to the judge making the request to be excluded because she is breast-feeding.

Breastfeeding would become one of the types of physical or financial hardship that can get a person excused from jury duty.

Current law requires a prospective juror to provide documentation for being excused based on “undue or extreme physical or financial hardship,” according to an analysis of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

Gonzales could not be reached for comment.

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