Sophie Currier was a new mother and Harvard medical student in June of 2007 when she made plans to take the National Medical Board’s clinical knowledge exam. The exam consists of 370 questions, and the testing session is about nine hours long. Normally, students are allotted 45 minutes of total break time. Sophie has ADHD and dyslexia and requested extra time to take the test. The board refused saying that all test takers must be given the same amount of time. Sophie filed suit and was granted an additional day to take the test, but not additional break time. The board said that breastfeeding was not covered under the disabilities act, and therefore she could not be given extra break time to pump or nurse her daughter.
An injunction was granted the by the appeals court, giving Sophie an additional hour of break time each test day. Not only that, but the court ordered the board to accommodate her with a private room with access to a power outlet where she could pump during her breaks. Unfortunately, Sophie did not pass the exam that year with these accommodations, but she did pass the following year.
The National Board of Medical Examiners took the case to the high court. Even though Sophie no longer needed the breaks she had been fighting for, she decided to continue fighting this case in order to help other women.
According to April 17, 2012 edition of The Courthouse News Service, the Supreme Judicial Court later said that some of her claims should go to trial. The court panel agreed that her equal rights were violated, as well as the public accommodations law. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland explained that lactation is a sex-linked classification, and further admitted that there are still barriers which prevent mothers from being able to breastfeed or pump. “We take this opportunity to extend protection to lactating mothers in the context of lengthy testing required for medical licensure.”
Under the court ruling, breastfeeding moms in the state of Massachusetts should now be accommodated with extra break time during medical exams in order to pump or nurse their babies.
Breastfeeding and pumping may not be covered under a disabilities act, and why should it be? Is breastfeeding a disability? Although some breastfeeding opponents would like to think this, breastfeeding is now considered by many states and authorities to be a civil right. The National Medical Examiners Board, as well as store clerks, restaurant owners, and even law enforcement agencies now have to respect a mother’s right to breastfeed where and when her baby needs to, and also to make reasonable accommodations for that or for pumping.
This story comes on the heels of Seattle women being given the right to breastfeed whenever and wherever they need to. Slowly, but surely, breastfeeding moms in all 50 states are being granted rights that are making it easy to nurse their children.
Read the breastfeeding action guide learn more about how you can advocate for breastfeeding in Colorado and other states.