West Virginia has the honor of being one of only two U.S. states (W.V. and Idaho) that has no public breastfeeding law whatsoever. Since the vast majority of states have unenforceable public breastfeeding laws, I don't consider West Virginia's lack of legislation a distinction with a difference. But I guess the state finds it a tad embarrassing.
Which would explain the introduction this year of West Virginia Senate Bill 4 (identical to House Bill 4540). The bill as introduced would create a law that states:
ARTICLE 1. STATE PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM.
§16-1-19. Child’s right to nurse; location where permitted; right protected.
(a) The Legislature finds that breast feeding is an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, a mother may breast feed a child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be.
The bill is nearly identical to the equally toothless West Virginia Senate Bill 82 from last year. SB82 died in Committee but it appears this year's bill might not.
Introduced on January 12th of this year. SB4 traveled relatively rapidly through the West Virginia Senate, fighting off attempts to add amendments that would require breastfeeding women attempt to cover their breasts. The Bill is now working its way through Committees in the West Virginia House at a decent clip.
West Virginia has the fourth lowest breastfeeding rate in the U.S. It obviously needs legal support for breastfeeding women. So what is wrong with the current bill? The same thing that was wrong with last year's. There is no enforcement provision. If SB4/HB4540 passes the full West Virginia legislature, West Virginia women will have a "right" with no way of enforcing it. If this bill becomes law, West Virginia law contains nothing for a woman to do if it is violated.
Remember to read my articles on BreastfeedingLaw.com for more background on how public breastfeeding laws do and don't work.
If you live in West Virginia, it may be too late to influence the outcome but you can try by letting your House representative know the bill should be amended to add an enforcement provision. Otherwise, West Virginia will move off the "no law" list but West Virginia women will gain nothing.