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Texan politician under fire for opposing public breastfeeding

Published time: March 15, 2013 21:12
Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle

Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle

Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle has infuriated women throughout the US: the lawmaker has voiced her opposition to breastfeeding in public, claiming that women should be “modest and respectful”.

In a Facebook post that Riddle has since deleted, the representative expressed her opposition to House Bill 1706, which would allow a mother to breastfeed her child in public. The bill would also allow parents who believe their breastfeeding rights have been violated to file a lawsuit.

"Now, I am all in favor of breast feeding — however it is important for women to be modest while feeding their baby — and most women are modest and respectful," Riddle wrote on her Facebook page. "But, a bill that would allow for lawsuits if one 'interfered' with a woman breast feeding is really going a bit far.”

She also said that a business owner should have a right to object to a woman breastfeeding on his property, and that women who breastfeed in public are “inconsiderate”.

“Most of our laws and bills being considered for law would not be necessary if people would simply be considerate and thoughtful of others,” she wrote. “Needless to say – I am not supporting this bill.”

Within hours of posting the Facebook update, Riddle’s remarks had surpassed 1,000 comments. Most of the commenters were furious about her statement, with one writing that “there is nothing immodest about nursing a baby, no matter how much breast you see”.

Other lawmakers have also expressed their outrage at Riddle. State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who authored House Bill 1706, told the Texas Tribune that Riddle’s mentality “illustrates the problem” she hopes to solve with her bill.

“Lingerie commercials reveal more than women actually trying to do good for their children and their families,” she said. “…Some people think that breastfeeding is somehow obscene.”

Although Riddle deleted her status update and has refused to comment to the media about it, angry Facebook users have continued to flood her page with heated comments.

“Breastfeeding isn’t a modesty issue because it isn’t sexual,” wrote Facebook user Sarah Rose Fernandez. “If you have trouble differentiating between a baby eating and sexual activity, sounds like you have a problem.”

While Riddle has outraged women throughout the US with her comments, it’s not the first time she has been offensive. In 2010, she appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, claiming that Middle Eastern women choose to emigrate to the US to have children here and raise them as terrorists. In September, she told a dark-skinned American college student to “go to Afghanistan”, where people “still live like they are in the Stone Age”.

“Because of my name and what I look like and my skin color, she is saying I should go to Afghanistan and that I am not a real American,” the student told The Horn.

After engaging in an argument with the college student on her Facebook wall, Riddle told the young man not to insult anyone who’s old enough to be his parent “because we have lived more life and know a little more about the real world than you.”

In 2003, the Texas lawmaker described Moscow as “the pit of hell” in an interview with the El Paso Times. 

"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever?” she wrote. “It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell."