The Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to remove “woman” and the pronoun “she” from the Breastfeeding antidiscrimination act.

The original law, passed in 2014, ensured women could breastfeed a baby in “a place of public accommodation.” The law, 2014 Public Act 197, referred to “women” with the pronoun “she.”

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In 2023, state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D) introduced Senate Bill 351, to strip any reference to women and replaced the word with “an individual.” For example:

The Senate Journal showed state Sen. Michele Hoitenga (R) offered an amendment to reverse the changes, effectively keeping the law the same:

“I must admit this is not an amendment I ever thought I’d have to offer in this Legislature,” Hoitenga said.

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“As far as I’m aware, women—specifically mothers—are the only people who can breastfeed or pump milk. Yet, for some reason, this bill removes the words ‘woman’ and ‘she'” and changes these proper terms to ‘individual.’ My amendment will simply specify that this bill related to producing breast milk respectfully applies to women. Thank you, and I ask for your ‘yes’ vote.”

Hoitenga’s amendment was defeated 20-18 on a party-line vote.

Irwin wanted Hoitenga’s amendment defeated because he claimed his bill was “not about some twisted culture war.”

When Irwin’s original bill was then brought up for a vote, several Republicans voted for it, and to strip “woman” and “she” out of the law:

The Republicans included:

  • Thomas Albert
  • John Damoose
  • Mark Huizenga
  • Ruth Johnson
  • Aric Nesbitt
  • Roger Victory

“Senate Democrats took a relatively non-controversial policy bill, a bill extending the right for women to breastfeed in public to also include pumping breast milk, and made it controversial by replacing the word ‘woman’ with ‘individual,'” Jeff Wiggins, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, told The Midwesterner.

“Senate Republicans unanimously voted to put the word ‘woman’ back in, but Senate Democrats defeated the amendment 20-18. Some Senate Republicans ended up supporting the final bill because, despite Democrats efforts to play word games, the bill protects the right of women, and only women, to pump breast milk in public. Because only biological women can produce breast milk.”

“The bill has absolutely nothing to do with changing the definition of a woman,” state Sen. John Damoose (R) told The Midwesterner.

“The bill is only about defending a woman’s right to pump breast milk, and supporting nursing mothers. I believe it is the healthiest option for growing children and want to do what I can to help remove barriers to women who want to nurse their child. Changing the word ‘woman’ to ‘individual’ is just a policy of the Legislative Services Bureau that is occurring every time any piece of legislation is opened and has zero to do with the purpose of this bill. Other examples of this policy include changing ‘marijuana’ to ‘cannabis’ and ‘voters’ to ‘electors,'” he said.

“I oppose all woke initiatives that fail to recognize the biological differences between traditional genders. If the content of the bill had any impact on those facts, I would not have supported it.”