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Chandra Ruiz is the founder of Breast or Bust!, a small business using witty T-shirts to advocate for breastfeeding rights. Her breastfeeding convictions, along with her involvement with La Leche League, drove Ruiz to the frontlines of an ongoing battle. In June, a breastfeeding mother was asked to leave a city pool in Chandler after she refused to go into a bathroom to nurse; now, groups around Arizona are fighting for state legislation and city ordinances to protect breastfeeding mothers and their children. Since the June incident, Ruiz has banded together with women around the state, via the Internet, to push for legislative reform. For more information, check out www.breastorbust.com or e-mail chandra@breastorbust.com. Why exactly are you so angry?

I'm a breastfeeding mother who feels that it's very sad that women who go out in public fear things like harassment, segregation and discrimination, simply because they are trying to feed and comfort their children. Following the confrontation in June, the city of Chandler received more than 111 pages of e-mails contesting the council's decision to support the city pool policies regarding breastfeeding.

Anything else?

Mothers are often asked to breastfeed in public bathrooms. Can you imagine having to sit on a public toilet and feed your child? On top of that, as the Chandler law stands now, if a breastfeeding woman is asked to leave a public place, and she refuses, she can then be arrested for criminal trespassing. Feeding your child doesn't really equal up to criminal trespassing.

When did this issue become so large?

I think really it got big when the ABC show The View was making derogatory comments about public breastfeeding. Thousands of women e-mailed them, asking them to retract their comments, but they never even sent a response. So 350 women marched down to the New York studios and had a nurse-in, and in conjunction, we had a nurse-in here in Tucson with more than 20 women.

What's a nurse-in?

A nurse-in is similar to a sit-in. It's a manner of peaceful protesting where the mothers sit out in public and nurse their children as they please.

So to change things, what are you doing, aside from protests?

We first started an online forum for the women to centralize their efforts. From there, we met with Sen. (Tim) Bee and Sen. (Ken) Cheuvront to change the Arizona indecent exposure law to exempt breastfeeding mothers, while also pushing for a public accommodations clause allowing women to breastfeed anywhere. Arizona is one of 15 states that does not have such a clause to protect breastfeeding women. We also met with Kyrsten Sinema, (a) representative for District 15, who is already drafting a bill that would amend the indecent exposure act, and we asked her to tack on the public accommodations clause.

Is that working?

Unfortunately, no. The senators suggested that we get individual cities to pass ordinances first, and then the state could ease into creating legislation. Though we (are scheduled) ... to review Sinema's bill before its presentation to the legislature.

In that case, are you doing something in Tucson?

I am working with Councilman Steve Leal to get Tucson to pass an ordinance allowing mothers to breastfeed on city property.

What about private property?

A taskforce would be created to ask individual property owners to permit mothers to breastfeed. Those willing to do so would be given some sort of identifier to let mothers know that the area is breastfeeding-friendly. But the city attorneys don't think an ordinance can legally force property owners to comply.

How did your business start?

One day, my husband and I were trying to think of a gift for a friend who just had a baby. My husband is a screenprinter, so T-shirts were a logical idea. We made a couple funny shirts, and the business just took off from there. Now, we not only sell T-shirts, but I also try to educate people about breastfeeding.

Is there a large market for lactation-related T-shirts?

There wasn't before us, now though it seems like everyone wants to make T-shirts about breastfeeding, but none of them are nearly as witty as ours.

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