SPRING, Texas—A Houston-area mother has found herself at the center of a debate over where mothers should be allowed to breastfeed.
"It’s just a meal, that’s it," Penny Montgomery-Schlanser told KHOU 11 News one week after she said she had a run-in with a staff member in the Kid’s Club area of Pure Fitness for Women, a women-only gym.
"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."
Montgomery-Schlanser said she was asked to leave—something Martha Velazquez, a gym co-owner, denied.
Velazquez said Montgomery-Schlanser was only asked 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."
Montgomery-Schlanser said her supporters have planned a nurse-in at Pure Fitness for Women on Friday, August 26th.
Under Texas law, women are allowed to breastfeed their children in "any location in which the mother is authorized to be."