Mother Missed Flight Because TSA Refused to Handle Breastmilk as Medical Liquid

breastmilk, tsa patdowns
Is this the weapon of choice for terrorists?

Stacey Armato, a mother who flies frequently for her job as a lawyer, is at the center of the latest TSA scandal to gain notoriety on the web.  While passing through security in Phoenix on February 1st of this year, Armato was held captive in a “glass cage” by TSA agents for an hour, resulting in a missed flight and tears.  Why?  Because TSA agents initially refused to honor Armato’s request not to x-ray her breastmilk, despite the fact that their own rules indicate they must treat breastmilk as a medical liquid.

In an odd twist, film reviewer Roger Ebert’s attention to Armato’s plight is one of the reasons this story has gained so much attention recently, but has extensive coverage of the incident, which – thankfully – was captured on security cameras.  According to Prison Planet, “After being told that her breast milk might have to be put through an x-ray scanner, Ms. Armato attempted to show the TSA agents a print out of their own guidelines allowing non x-ray screening for breast milk.  This act of serious disobedience resulted in the agent pushing Ms. Armato into a glass cage, telling her ‘to be quiet if you know what’s good for you’, while calling for back up.”

Police did arrive on the scene, informing Armato that “she had been singled out by TSA agents who recognized her because she had filed a complaint against them regarding the handling of her breast milk the previous week.”  Indeed, Armato had received the same maltreatment at the hands of TSA just a week prior.  Instead of offering assistance, the police officer in question told Armato she should plan to fly out of a different gate in the future.

Perhaps the most horrifying injustice of all is that after being on public display in the “glass box” for nearly an hour, “A TSA manager… told her that the milk had to go through the x-ray scanner because the containers it was in were too full and it was not a clear liquid.  These are both made up rules that are not mentioned anywhere in TSA guidelines, proving that even the TSA manager had no regard for the official laws in this instance.”  Security did eventually examine the milk by hand, after making Armato pour the liquid into eight separate containers.

Here’s a video Armato edited together from security footage of her ordeal.  I’m afraid to watch.

We’ve covered the TSA’s missteps a lot recently, from the way they aggressively pat down toddlers to moms having their private parts touched without consent.  John argues that the TSA wasn’t guilty of sexual assault in that case, but that it “was an inept execution of a highly controversial government policy.”  There seems to be no end to the TSA’s ineptitude, since just this week, a woman was subjected to an embarrassing pat down because her sanitary napkin showed up on the scanner as an unidentified object.

Her story is very well-detailed by The Daily Mail, but what I want to know is this: how does a patdown reassure anyone that what is in that pad is not explosive?  (I mean, I’ve had a few explosive periods in my day, right ladies?)  Unless the TSA makes all women remove their tampons and pads for testing, how can we really know for sure that any of us is safe?  Maybe bleeding women shouldn’t be allowed to fly at all, since we have terrible mood swings and might attract bears.  Imagine if a plane got hijacked by a bear???  It could happen, you guys!  Sully never expected those geese……

Why the U.S. government is subjecting its citizens to “gate rape,” I have no idea.  Frankly, if someone wants to blow up a plane, they’re going to find a way, come hell or high water, as my folks used to say.  I can’t believe Lenore Skenazy hasn’t weighed in on this yet at Free Range Kids; this kind of general mistrust of people is her pet cause.  We need someone to do something and soon, because the TSA’s abuses are getting out of control.

Sadly, Armato is not the only woman whose breastmilk has been mistreated by airport security; a mother at Heathrow in London recently had her breastmilk confiscated.  While I feel terribly for these mothers who’ve worked so hard to pump, what is most disturbing to me, and seemingly under-investigated by the media, is the fact that, as The Daily Mail reports:

Although they wear gloves, it is being reported that viruses like syphilis, lice, gonorrhea, chlamydia, strep and papilloma viruses can be transferred from passenger to passenger during the body searches.  Alarmed travellers have noted that the TSA agents do not change gloves in between patdowns and were actually patting down dozens of passengers or more wearing the same gloves.  Dr Thomas Warner from Wisconsin told WND: ‘There is no doubt that bacteria (staph, strep, v.cholerae etc.) and viruses (noro, enteroviruses, herpes, hepatitis A and papilloma viruses) can be spread by contaminated vinyl or latex gloves’.  ‘The traveler readjusting clothes can easily get the infectious agents on their hands and therefore into their mouth, nose and eyes.’  Dr Warner said that at the very minimum, gloves should be changed between patdowns, ‘especially if the gloved hand is inside clothes or in the genital area… even if clothed.  Travelers should be advised of this and hand-wash and change clothes ASAP after these intimate examinations.’

Let’s hope that the TSA is taken to task for these grievances soon.  In the meantime, I guess it’s time to start bringing an extra outfit in your carry-on, not just for baby, bur for Mom and Dad, too.

Photo via Flickr

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