Mother faces jail for breast-feeding. Refusing to part with nursing child to serve on jury, mom is put on trial

By Julie Foster
2000 WorldNetDaily.com

An Idaho mother practicing "ecological breast-feeding" is being dragged into court March 13th because she would not be separated from her two small children in order to serve jury duty -- an offense punishable by up to three days in jail and a $100 fine, according to Idaho law.

Siri Wright was summoned to jury duty in the summer of 1998. She was given a postponement since her one-year-old daughter was breast-feeding. Wright was again summoned, but informed Jury Commissioner Marji Shepherd her daughter had not yet weaned herself.

According to both women, Shepherd told Wright to set an appearance date for some time within the following four months. When Wright informed the commissioner she could not predict when her daughter would wean herself, she was assigned a date of Dec. 9, 1999.

Wright appeared in court at the appointed time with her two children, and was told by Shepherd to find a place to leave the four-year-old son and his nursing sister who have never been to daycare or had babysitters. Shepherd then recorded Wright as a "no-show" and held her in criminal contempt of court.

Wright claims Shepherd stepped beyond the boundaries of the law by setting a time limit for her jury service since no such limit exists regarding nursing mothers.

Idaho law clearly states: "The court shall provide that a mother nursing her child shall have service postponed until she is no longer nursing the child."

The law is found in a statute outlining various circumstances excusing citizens from jury duty. "Physical or mental disability" is the only condition for which citizens "may be required to submit a physician's certificate as to the disability." Wright's lawyer, Breck Seiniger, argues breast-feeding is not a "disability" requiring a doctor's note.

However, Wright did submit two such notes to the court, in order to fulfill even a possible legal requirement. But Shepherd, who filed an affidavit against the full-time mom, told WorldNetDaily Wright did not produce the documentation.

WorldNetDaily acquired a copy of the two doctors' notes as well as the affidavit in which Shepherd recounts "that on Aug. 10, 1998, a letter from the Women's Medical Clinic ... indicated that Ms. Wright was a nursing mother." The other doctor's note was dated Aug. 26, 1999.

WND contacted Shepherd's office seeking clarification of the discrepancy, but was told Shepherd has "no comment." Press calls were referred to trial court administrator John Traylor.

Traylor said he could not answer for Shepherd, adding that neither court official could comment on a pending contempt case. Interestingly, Shepherd had no reservations in going on record with KTVB, Channel 7 in Boise regarding the case last week.

In a televised interview on Feb. 26, Shepherd told the station, "If you have had several postponements, say for a year or two years, and it just doesn't seem to be going anywhere, then I just turn it over to the prosecutor's office and to the judge and let them do what they must do," said Shepherd.

When pressed about a mysterious meeting between the judge, prosecutors and Wright which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, but for which Wright received no summons, Traylor indignantly replied, "If I have more information, I'll tell you, but that doesn't mean I'm going to tell you when you call."

Seiniger, who maintains a website dedicated to his client's case, told WorldNetDaily, "If they couldn't talk about it, then why did they go on TV in Boise, Idaho? There's a difference between not being able to talk about it and not wanting to talk about it."

The case appears to have less to do with following the letter of the law and more to do with distrust of a mother who has chosen a somewhat unpopular form of childrearing.

Before their children were born, Wright and her husband Chris decided to practice a form of natural breast-feeding, known in some circles as "ecological breast-feeding," which allows a child to wean himself. The practice, though not uncommon, is not popular in many circles which regard the thought of breast-feeding toddlers disturbing.

The couple's daughter is now just over two years old and still nursing -- normal for children who wean themselves. In fact, children raised using ecological breast-feeding have nursed up to four and five years old.

"The Art of Natural Family Planning," by John and Sheila Kippley, is a textbook used by Catholics learning a natural, non-chemical method of birth control. It includes a section explaining ecological breast-feeding.

"Don't force weaning," it says. "Natural weaning occurs gradually and usually over a period of many months or a few years at baby's pace -- not society's. The appearance of baby teeth in no way signals weaning."

Though the Wrights are not using the nursing method out of religious convictions, they strongly believe self-weaning to be a healthy and natural part of life. They are not alone. Many groups, including La Leche League, advocate self-weaning and explain the consequences of ecological breast-feeding.

"In the early years, the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food," says the League's website. "Ideally, the breast-feeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need."

The Kippleys agree. "Be one with your baby," they write. "Avoid situations that separate the two of you. Take your baby with you, and don't leave him with babysitters. If you absolutely cannot avoid a separation, don't let it be for more than one or two hours."

Though the Wrights are attempting to raise their children according to such principles as outlined by La Leche League and the Kippley's, Shepherd and Ada County Judge Joel D. Horton -- who did not dismiss Wright's case, but instead ordered a trial -- are stepping in to force a mother-child separation for jury duty.

In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Wright expressed her reaction to the case.

"We hear so much about the importance of family values and our children being the future," she said. "Nobody means it. It's a buzz word, a warm fuzzy, a platform. I think it's a travesty."

"We have worked so hard over the years to enable me to stay home during these tender years," Wright continued. "It's been a tremendous sacrifice for me. And this is how we're treated. Who agrees that this is a good use of taxpayers' dollars?" she asked.

Apparently the answer is the Idaho State Court.

"Jury duty is a very serious obligation for every citizen. We have many lives that are at stake -- people's lives," said Shepherd.

Wright's trial begins March 13, at 9:00 a.m at the Ada County Courthouse, 514 West Jefferson, Boise, Idaho.

Julie Foster is a staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.


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