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A Peach of a Victory for Georgia’s Lactation Consultants

Mary Jackson has been working hard keeping Georgia’s new mothers and babies healthy and happy while the nation’s families face unique challenges. And now, thanks to IJ, she can keep up the good work. In a decisive victory for economic liberty, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Mary’s favor in IJ’s case challenging the state’s lactation consultant licensing law.

Liberty & Law readers will remember that in 2016, Georgia’s legislature adopted a first-of-its-kind law requiring that lactation consultants obtain the equivalent of an advanced degree before continuing to work in the field. The law would force some 800 professionals like Mary to quit their jobs and spend several years and thousands of dollars earning the qualifications necessary to obtain a state-issued license. There is zero evidence that unlicensed lactation care has ever harmed anyone, anywhere—but dramatically limiting the number of lactation consultants in Georgia would cause real harm to the thousands of mothers and babies left without their help.

IJ’s lawsuit began in June 2018, when Mary—a lactation counselor at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta—and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere—the nonprofit Mary helped found to educate families of color about breastfeeding—challenged Georgia’s law.

In 2019, the trial court dismissed the case. Incredibly, the court ruled that there is no right to economic liberty in Georgia—a mistake the state’s high court was eager to correct. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed this summer that it has “long interpreted the Georgia Constitution as protecting a right to work in one’s chosen profession free from unreasonable government interference.”

Women have been teaching other women how to breastfeed for millennia. They don’t need a license to do it safely or to do it well. IJ’s watershed victory reminds government officials that everyone who earns a living in the Peach State has a constitutional right to do so and that IJ stands ready to defend that right.

Learn more through our case video.

The case now returns to the trial court, where IJ will continue to fight on behalf of Mary, ROSE, and the families they help.

Renée Flaherty is an IJ attorney.

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