SPRING, Texas – More than a dozen women protested outside Pure Fitness for Women in Spring on Friday, a couple weeks after a mother was asked by the gym not to breastfeed in public.
Some of the women were nursing as traffic rolled by. They said they want the gym to change its policy and to apologize.
“But more than apology, we want to let the public know that breastfeeding is such an amazing decision for the child and we want the company to be educated in the fact that women have the right to breastfeed,” said protester Jennifer Atherton.
About two weeks ago, Penny Montgomery-Schlanser said she was in the Kid’s Club area of the gym when she was asked to leave.
“The top half of my shirt was covered and [my son] was over the bottom half covering everything else,” she said. “I was nursing on the right side, and all the children were to the left.”
Martha Velazquez, a gym co-owner, said Montgomery-Schlanser was not asked to leave, but was told to move to a different part of the gym.
In a statement given to KHOU 11 News, Pure Fitness for Women said: “Our company strongly supports and encourages mothers to pursue the healthy development and nutrition of their children through breastfeeding. We believe breastfeeding is one of the most important, natural and personal ways for a mother to bond with her baby.”
According to the statement, the gym, as a private business, was also entrusted with the care and custody of minor children in the Kid’s Club area.
Velazquez said several children, including an 11-year-old boy, were in the Kids Club at the time Montgomery-Schlanser was breastfeeding.
“We are responsible for both male and female children from the ages of three months to 12 years old,” the gym said in a statement. “Without express written consent from a parent or legal guardian of these minor children, we feel we do not have the right to dictate what the parent or guardian determines to be appropriate for their children.”
“This matter has come up hundreds of times in our facilities in the past and [it] has never been an issue before. However, when it comes to issues regarding minor children, coupled with the fact that there are many other comfortable areas (including the women’s lounge area) within the facility, we feel the appropriate action was taken in this isolated situation.”
“It’s just eating. It’s food,” said Montgomery-Schlanser. “You don’t go eat a sandwich and put a blanket over your head. This is going to stop unless women ... stand up for other women’s rights.”
Under Texas law, women are allowed to breastfeed their children in “any location in which the mother is authorized to be.”