Strangely enough, some conservatives leapt to attack the simple notion of encouraging breast-feeding — which has been shown in many studies to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. Tea Party star and Minn. Rep. Michelle Bachmann accused the first lady of pushing a leftist agenda intent on making “government the answer to everything.” On Laura Ingram’s radio show last week, Bachmann said: “To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump … You want to talk about nanny state, I think we just got a new definition.”
Bachmann’s claim that the government is buying breast pumps is nonsense. The IRS simply announced it would allow people to deduct breast-feeding expenses from their taxes. And since breast pumps can be costly (I found them online in the range of $75 to $350) the tax break would be a relief to many working mothers. But for Bachmann and her ilk, any government intervention to support healthier options is fodder for harsh criticism. […]
Palin made a contentious remark of her own about Obama’s breast-feeding statements, saying, “No wonder Michelle Obama’s telling everybody, ‘you’d better breast-feed your baby.’ Yeah, you’d better, because the price of milk is so high right now!”
It’s unclear why Bachmann or Palin wouldn’t want to foster an environment that makes it easier for mothers to breast-feed their babies. Bachman’s implication that this is unpatriotic and an infringement on American rights is baffling given the fact that all politicians at least pay lip service to the importance of motherhood — to attack breast-feeding, as Bachmann and Palin have, is to attack healthy mothers and babies.
Originally, breast pumps and nursing supplies did not qualify for tax breaks or deductions. In fact, after extensive complaint and feedback from advocacy groups, health groups, individuals, and President Obama himself, the IRS changed its policy to allow families to use their own pre-tax dollars, through their flexible spending account, to cover breast pumps or to be able to deduct the cost of breastfeeding supplies from their taxes. […]
It’s not Bachmann’s job as a lawmaker to rail against anything and everything she personally doesn’t like. In this, Republicans seem to excel. Bachmann, in particular, reasons that because she had five children, all of whom she breastfed, without using her own pre-tax dollars deposited into a flexible spending account or tax deductions to cover the costs of her breastfeeding supplies, then, by extension, no American mother should have the opportunity to do so either. […]
There are millions of American mothers who do not receive any sort of paid family leave. They return to work almost immediately and, in the struggle to feed their babies and maintain a job, they must pump their breast milk during the day. Using a breast pump, and related supplies, which can be extremely costly is a medical or health care related expense. […]
It’s not surprising but fairly ridiculous that Bachmann has chosen to make an enemy of American mothers, babies and the First Lady herself for working to improve public health overall, and the health of our babies first and foremost.