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Many Illinois Courthouses Still Don't Offer Lactation Room, Despite Mandate

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Nursing parents visiting courthouses across Illinois could still have trouble accessing a private clean place to feed their babies.

A survey by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois found counties have a mixed record of meeting requirements to have courthouse areas set aside for breastfeeding.

The deadline passed in June for courthouses to provide a private space outside of the restroom that has a table, chair and outlet for electric breast milk pumps.

ACLU Staff Attorney Emily Werth said courthouse staff often didn't know where to direct nursing mothers, even if there is a space.

“You can have the most beautiful lactation space in the world and if no one can get to it because nobody knows where it is or how to access it, it’s not serving its purpose,” she said.

The ACLU surveyed 77 courthouses. Nineteen offered no private space for breastfeeding. That includes Knox County.

Another 11 courthouses provided only bathrooms for that purpose.

“A bathroom is not an appropriate lactation accommodation because breast milk is food for a child,” Werth said. “Just as I would not want to make my lunch in the bathroom, most parents are not comfortable creating the food for their children within a bathroom that may not be sanitary.”

Failing to comply with the law doesn't carry specific penalties. Werth said, though, courthouses could be violating other laws. The Illinois Human Rights Act also protects against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or lactation.

The ACLU survey data was collected in July and August. The organization has not yet followed up to see if accommodations have since been made.

Peoria and Tazewell County both met the requirement.

Knox County did not respond to a request for comment on plans to comply.

Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.