Victory And Opportunity for Georgia’s Lactation Consultants
Mary Jackson shouldn’t need a government license to help women learn to breastfeed. In March, the Fulton County Superior Court agreed and struck down Georgia’s unconstitutional licensing law for lactation consultants. And now that the state has appealed, Mary and IJ will soon return to the Supreme Court of Georgia to defend her victory and set groundbreaking precedent.
Liberty & Law readers will recall that Georgia’s law, which required lactation consultants to obtain the equivalent of an advanced degree, was the first of its kind in the country. Mary and her nonprofit, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), partnered with IJ to challenge the law in 2018. Then, in 2020, IJ secured an important victory at the Supreme Court of Georgia, which reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the case and affirmed that Georgia’s high court has “long interpreted the Georgia Constitution as protecting a right to work in one’s chosen profession free from unreasonable government interference.”
After that first-round victory, the case went back to the trial court, where IJ attorneys conducted discovery and built a record proving that licensing lactation consultants isn’t necessary to protect the public. Indeed, the facts showed that the law would have forced hundreds of skilled people like Mary out of work, leaving many families without the care they need. With help from Mary, ROSE members, and expert witnesses, IJ proved that lactation consulting is safe and that families need more providers, not licensing.
Our evidence was so compelling that the very same trial court judge who initially dismissed Mary’s case saw the record and changed his mind. He ruled that the law violates the Georgia Constitution’s equal protection clause because it arbitrarily excludes people like Mary from helping families while allowing others to continue working. As a result, he held the licensing scheme unconstitutional.
Now that the state has appealed our loss, IJ will have the chance to defend its equal protection victory. This is yet another example of IJ taking a trial court victory in an economic liberty case to a state supreme court. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Texas held that requiring eyebrow threaders to obtain cosmetology licenses was unconstitutional in IJ’s case Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. That watershed case established that the Texas Constitution provides greater protection for economic liberty than its federal counterpart. And we have been building on that precedent ever since.
Mary and ROSE are excited for the chance to ensure that everyone in the Peach State has the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable government interference. Stay tuned!
Renée Flaherty is an IJ attorney.
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