Over the past two decades, Mary Jackson has helped countless women, especially women of color, to embrace breastfeeding by promoting its benefits and providing them with valuable techniques. The founder of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Jackson is a certified lactation consultant (CLC), one of the two certification options available to those in the business of breastfeeding. She works with women at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, and has trained both medical students and doctors around the country on breastfeeding best pactrices.
Yet, under the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act—set to go into law on July 1—Jackson's certification, along with the credentials of over 800 others, will no longer meet state requirements.
Only four states even require a license for professional lactation consulting. Georgia is the only one that will require lactation consultants to have certification from the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC).
The IBCLC certification is costly and time-consuming, requiring almost two years worth of classes for information that is near useless in application. That's why ROSE is suing the state over its burdensome new occupational licensing requirements, with help from the nonprofit Institute for Justice (IJ).
"Everyday I go to work with a smile on my face because I'm doing something I love—helping moms help their newborns," said Jackson in an interview with IJ. "I don't want to give that up, and I shouldn't have to. I'm passionate about breastfeeding and I do everything I can to make sure moms in minority, rural, and at-risk communities, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have access to quality lactation support from qualified lactation supporters."
"But now, if the courts don't intervene," she continued, "hundreds of my colleagues across the state will be out of a job, unable to continue to help their community, and thousands of moms will be left without the help they need."
Under the new law, there will only be around 400 lactation consultants who meet state requirements to provide their services to new mothers.
ROSE and IJ are now seeking a temporary restraining order to delay the law taking effect. They argue that the new lactation consultant licensing requirements are a violation of the Georgia constitution, which guarantees equal protection and substantive due process. The government cannot license an occupation without there being a "real and substantial" connection between the license and the public good, IJ lawyers note.
Jaime Cavanaugh, the IJ attorney handling this case, put it best when she said: "The state itself concluded in 2013, licensing lactation consultants will only decrease access to breastfeeding support. This law serves no purpose other than to enrich one group of privately certified lactation consultants to the detriment of all others."
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, June 25.