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Breastfeeding Campaign Makes Surprising Allies

By Sierra Black |

Breast pumps will be eligible for tax-deduction

Partisan politics in America has for decades been bickering over women’s wombs. Now the fight extends to our breasts as well.

When Michelle Obama stepped forward to promote breastfeeding, she drew criticism from the usual quarters. Tea Party celebrity Michele Bachmann was quick to critique the First Lady for her support of breastfeeding.

What happened next is more suprising. The New York Times reports that a mix of conservative and liberal allies defended Obama’s pro-breastfeeding stance, while some liberal lawmakers found themselves aligned with Bachmann’s criticism.

At the center of the debate is a new IRS tax break for breastfeeding expenses, particularly the cost of a breast pump. The pumps can cost hundreds of dollars. Earlier this year the IRS refused to include them as a tax-deductible expense, but they’ve now reversed that decision.

Bachmann mistakenly described this as the government buying breast pumps, but that’s not the case. Your breast pump will be treated just like your prescription drugs: you can deduct it if you itemize medical deductions, or you can pay for it out of a health care FSA if you have one.

As the NYT says in their article:

Ms. Bachmann was wrong that Mrs. Obama wants the government to pay for breast pumps; the I.R.S. would simply allow people to deduct breast-feeding expenses if they itemize, or use the pre-tax dollars in their medical savings accounts to pay for pumps.

And the federal government is now one of the biggest buyers of baby formula, through its nutritional programs for women and infant children. So giving a tax break for breast-feeding might actually help reduce government spending, as Ms. Bachmann advocates.

Why would any progressive mama oppose this?  Some progressives said that while they support breastfeeding, they feel there’s enough pressure on working moms already, without laying in a guilt trip about pumping milk. Some women can’t for medical reasons, and some women don’t choose to for personal or professional reasons. It’s possible to see the First Lady’s support of breastfeeding as a case of pro-breastfeeding bullying.

Personally, I think breastfeeding is a huge part of starting kids off on a good nutritional foot, and I’m grateful that Mrs. Obama is stepping up to make this an important part of her campaign.

What do you think? Are you cheering for Michelle Obama or Michele Bachmann?

Photo: planet oleary

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About Sierra Black

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Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Campaign Makes Surprising Allies

  1. Gretchen Powers says:

    “Some progressives said that while they support breastfeeding, they feel there’s enough pressure on working moms already, without laying in a guilt trip about pumping milk. Some women can’t for medical reasons, and some women don’t choose to for personal or professional reasons. It’s possible to see the First Lady’s support of breastfeeding as a case of pro-breastfeeding bullying.”

    I know you’re not saying this, Sierra, but this stance is pretty idiotic. Now a tax break is laying a guilt trip on someone? PLEASE! If the gov wants to let people buy breast pumps tax free, I say FINE. It’s only helping a small amount of people anyway, and it’s basically a symbolic good will gesture. I am one who thinks that moms shouldn’t HAVE to pump because they should be at home with their babies during the time all this pumping would be so necessary…but, that is already a lost battle in today’s world, right? And I know it’s not MY CALL to make whether people stay home with their babies or not, it’s just what I happen to believe…so, if someone can get a little help to breastfeed, why the hell not?!?!?! Breastfeeding will save the government money in the long run because it can help improve the health of children, too…The idea though that “the federal government is now one of the biggest buyers of baby formula, through its nutritional programs for women and infant children. So giving a tax break for breast-feeding might actually help reduce government spending…” I don’t sense is correct, though, since the folks who have FSAs are not generally the folks who would be receiving WIC formula…I don’t think many poor people have FSAs or even know what they are…

  2. Amanda says:

    We need a flat tax so stuff like this isn’t even an issue. ; )

  3. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Link for the progressives pushing the guilt line, please.

  4. Sierra Black says:

    @Mistress_Scorpio: it’s in the NYT article.

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Thank you, Gretchen. My point exactly.

    The NYT article is pathetically unverifiable and the non-traversy gets perpetuated here. Nice work if you can get it.

  6. Meagan says:

    Oy… I think people get too bent out of shape over breast vs bottle… I think there’s too much guilting of moms who can’t or don’t breast feed, and even I think considering this tax break a “guilt trip” is idiotic.

  7. Meagan says:

    Ok, yeah that NYT article was annoyingly bad. Huffpo reaction was pretty amusing though. Thanks Gretchen.

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