(Last updated December 15, 2005)

You can make a Difference

California — Angela Ponzini

(Last updated December 15, 2005)

Angela Ponzini

Angela Ponzini, a full-time nursing mom from Menlo Park, California received a jury summons in December 1999.  She knew that serving would be impossible until her daughter Meghan was weaned so she jotted a note on the summons — “breast feeding my infant” and returned it to the jury commissioner.

 

Five days later the commissioner again demanded that Ponzini present herself for jury service.  “Personal inconvenience”, according to the court’s response, is not an acceptable reason to avoid jury duty.

 

Threatened with being cited for contempt of court and fearful of being forced into an untimely separation from her child, Angela frantically contacted all her legislators.  Assemblyman Ted Lempert, D-San Carlos was sympathetic to Angela’s situation and intervened with the San Mateo County jury commissioner who excused her from jury duty. 

Assemblyman Lempert went on to sponsor Assembly Bill 1814, which requires that until a breast-fed child is no longer nursing, the mother would be excused from jury service without having to appear in court.

 

Florida Attorney, Elizabeth Baldwin, a national expert on breastfeeding and the law, endorsed this legislation.  Ms. Baldwin stated that “you can’t just separate a mom from her baby like that.  A mother whose infant has not learned to take a bottle does not have the option that many working mothers rely on — using a breast pump.  You’ll have milk leaking all over and painful breasts...but women are still told ‘tough cookies’.  They have to come in and explain all this to the judge, even if they have no one to take care of the kids.”

 

Angela, who is not against jury service, said, “I would gladly have served, but right now I’m raising my child.”  She further stated, “I would like to see the Legislature begin to protect our nursing children and their mothers.  Providing the best care and nutrition for my child is not a personal inconvenience.”

 

Just weeks before she was due to deliver her second child, Angela Ponzini testified on behalf of AB1814 before the state Assembly’s judiciary committee.  Due to her initiative and persistence, Angela Ponzini made a big difference for the mothers and children in her state.  On August 31, 2000, Assembly Bill 1814 was signed into law. 

 

Assemblyman Lempert summed up Angela’s inspiring story:  “I introduced this bill because we need to protect nursing mothers.  But, it also demonstrates how one individual can make a difference in our system of government.”

Sources:

·          “Proposed Law  would Excuse Nursing Moms from Jury Duty”, The San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 2000 by Maria Alicia Gaura

·          “Bill Exempting Mothers from Jury Duty Becomes Law”,  www.breastfeeding.org, August 31, 2000

·          “Breastfeeding Mothers in California May Get Jury Duty Exemption”, www.breastfeeding.com, by Robina Riccitiello

You can make a difference!

Angela’s story (California) 

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Mothers & More Atlanta Chapter (Georgia)

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Donna’s Story (Illinois) pg.2

Tawni’s story (Oregon)

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