Nursing parents across Illinois visiting courthouses may still regularly be told to express breast milk in a bathroom stall despite an Illinois law requiring a private, clean lactation space in these public facilities. This finding is contained a report issued today by the ACLU of Illinois assessing compliance with Senate Bill 3503, passed in 2018. Specifically, the law requires courthouses to make a lactation room or area available for pumping and ensures that nursing parents have access to a clean, private space outside a bathroom in all Illinois state trial courthouses. The lactation room or area must be equipped with a chair, a table, and an outlet – as most breast pumps require a power source.
The ACLU of Illinois surveyed 77 courthouses in the 49 largest counties in Illinois other than Cook County. Each facility was asked a series of yes or no questions on lactation room access and best practices, and scored on a scale of 1-10, with one point given for each yes answer.
For 19 of the court facilities called, it was reported that there is no designated lactation space available to the public. For another 14 facilities, the designated lactation space was not reported to meet all the minimum requirements of the new state law. For 11 of the facilities, either the designated lactation space was in a bathroom – directly contrary to the new state law – or it was reported that a court visitor seeking a lactation space would be directed to the bathroom in the absence of another designated space.
“Unfortunately, too many courthouses still don’t have the lactation space required by law or are sending nursing parents to pump in courthouse bathrooms – which is both unsanitary and demeaning to parents and their children. Pumping in a toilet stall risks contamination of breast milk,” said Emily Werth, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois. “No parent should be forced to choose between full civic engagement and breastfeeding their baby.”
On the positive side, there were five counties that received a score of 9 – Will, Rock Island, Macon, Clinton and Monroe – and another 22 counties that received scores of 8 or 7. These counties typically were following the minimum requirements of the new state law but lost points because they were not utilizing all of the best practices regarding making lactation accommodations readily accessible to the public.
“There were several bright spots in Illinois courthouses – but many can continue to take additional steps to make sure their doors are truly open to all. We are providing a checklist that courthouses can use to make sure they are using all the best practices to be welcoming to parents,” continued Werth.