comscore House passes bill exempting nursing moms from jury duty | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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House passes bill exempting nursing moms from jury duty

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Marybeth Baldwin said she worried about how she’d be able to breast-feed her baby after being summoned for jury duty.

“I am the only person who can feed our child, yet there are many others not in the same situation who can serve on a jury,” Baldwin said. “Breast-feeding a child is not an easy task, which is evidenced by the large number of mothers who are unable to meet their breast-feeding goals.”

But breast-feeding mothers in Hawaii like Baldwin could be excused from jury duty for up to two years if Hawaii lawmakers approve a bill that’s being considered this session. Lawmakers in the House passed the bill Friday. It now faces approval from the Senate.

So far, 17 states and Puerto Rico exempt breast-feeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Health professionals say breast-feeding benefits both mothers and their babies. They say infants who are exclusively breast-fed tend to need fewer prescriptions and trips to the doctor than infants who were never breast-fed.

The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women says only 1 in 5 children in Hawaii receive the absolute minimum of six months of breast-feeding recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“I myself breast-fed my son until he was a little over 3 years old,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha), who introduced the bill. “If you get called for jury duty, that would definitely create a challenge.”

The Hawaii bill was met with support from organizations including the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii and the Hawaii Women’s Coalition. The bill says some women who are called to serve jury duty might not have ready access to the proper pump and supplies that are needed to express breast milk.

But the Hawaii Judiciary said parents with a young child can already request an exemption from jury duty for up to a year. Lori Okita, chief court administrator of Hawaii’s First Circuit Court, said the bill could open the door for other groups to push for automatic exemptions from jury duty.

In the long run, that could negatively affect the need for a diverse pool of potential jurors, she said.

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