Breastfeeding Mothers Now Exempt from Missouri's Indecent Exposure Law

Early this month, Governor Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1320 into law, expanding the rights of Missouri mothers. The bill has two main parts. First, it exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, it clarifies that breastfeeding in public does not constitute indecent exposure or conduct. The bill was authored by State Rep. Rory Ellinger, who has been a long-time advocate for civil rights.

In Missouri, indecent exposure is a sex crime characterized by the exposure of "private body parts" in public. Indecent exposure charges can vary from case to case, with common examples including public urination and flashing. While it is not typically a registerable sex offense – meaning that it doesn't require convicted individuals to register as sex offenders – it is a second degree misdemeanor that can pose serious fines and penalties.

Although most states in the U.S. exempt breastfeeding mothers from prosecution for indecent exposure, Missouri had no such law on the books. Although rare, there have been reported cases of mothers being admonished or even charged with indecent exposure for breastfeeding their child in public. It still remains an issue of cultural and social debate. The new Missouri bill signed by Governor Nixon is a common sense measure to protect breastfeeding mothers' civil rights, and for many was long overdue.

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