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Mass. Court Rules Breastfeeding Mothers Get Time To Pump During Tests

This article is more than 11 years old.

WBUR's Ben Swasey reports here:

BOSTON — The state’s highest court has ruled that breast-feeding mothers must be accommodated when taking medical exams.

“Our decision,” the Supreme Judicial Court wrote, “recognizes that there remain barriers that prevent new mothers from being able to breastfeed or express breast milk.”

We covered the legal arguments in this case in some detail in December — that post is here -- and laid out the facts this way:

In 2007, Sophie Currier of Brookline, holder of M.D. and PhD degrees from Harvard, asked for extra time to take an all-day medical board exam. Her daughter was four months old at the time and exclusively breast-fed, and she needed more than the standard 45 minutes of total break time to pump her breast milk. The test’s overseers, the National Board of Medical Examiners, said no.

From the law firm that represented Dr. Currier, Bowditch & Dewey:

In a landmark case that has implications for all testing organizations in Massachusetts, a unanimous Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that breast-feeding mothers are entitled to special accommodations to allow them sufficient time to pump milk during lengthy testing for medical licensure.

Bowditch & Dewey attorney Marisa Pizzi represented the defendant in the case, Sophie Currier, a mother who was breast feeding her daughter when she was scheduled to take the National Board of Medical Examiners’ test in preparation for a medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. She was denied sufficient time to pump breast milk during the exam and she filed suit.

“Our decision . . . recognizes that there remain barriers that prevent new mothers from being able to breast-feed or express breast milk,’’ wrote Chief Justice Roderick Ireland. The court accepted our contention that Ms. Currier is entitled to statutory relief under the Massachusetts public accommodation statute.Said Ms. Currier "This is a landmark case affirming women's rights to attend their career without having to compromise the breast feeding of their infant. As women make up fifty percent of the workforce, our society can not afford to see them leave work for months or years in order to breast feed. Professional activities and parenting must be compatible. It should also be known that this legal battle could not have been won without the years of hard work provided on a complete pro bono basis by the lawyers of Bowditch & Dewey."Attorney Pizzi commented " As a mother and a Partner in a law firm with the benefit of working on a flexible schedule, I am particularly interested in the issues of this case where there is conflict between one's responsibilities as a parent and professional requirements." 

Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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