A woman was ordered to leave a courtroom in Henderson, North Carolina, after a judge spotted her breastfeeding (video below).
Stephanie Rhodus, 25, was nursing her 8-month-old son, Archer, in the courtroom on April 11 when Judge Peter Knight ordered her to step outside and cover up, WLOS, an ABC News affiliate, reports. Rhodus was in court as a defendant in a child custody case against her mother, who has custody of her older son, age 8.
About five and a half minutes into the proceedings, Knight is heard on an audio tape telling the breastfeeding woman, "Ma'am you need to cover up. For you to not realize that is absolutely ridiculous."
"Step outside, and cover up right now," Knight continued, according to WLOS. "Stand up and go."
At the judge's order, Rhodus immediately stopped breastfeeding Archer and covered herself up. However, she said the baby began crying as a result.
"After I stopped feeding him, he became distressed and fussy and agitated," Rhodus said. "It made the rest of the proceedings pretty difficult."
She added that the judge didn't mind her bringing the baby to the courtroom and told her he understood if she couldn't make other arrangements.
At the end of the 25-minute hearing, Knight granted Rhodus's mother a six-month protective order preventing Rhodus from seeing her older child during that time. When Rhodus tried to argue her case further, he threatened to hold her in contempt.
Rhodus said she believes the breastfeeding affected the judge's decision.
The presiding judge typically has a lot of control over conduct in the courtroom. A court clerk said she has once seen a judge order someone to tuck his shirt in.
However, state law in North Carolina protects a woman's right to breastfeed in public regardless of whether she covers herself.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina is one of 49 U.S. states that specifically allows women to breastfeed in any public or private location and one of 27 states that exempt breastfeeding women from prosecution for public indecency.
Rhodus told WLOS that she plans to appeal the judge's ruling, and she will bring the infant to her next court hearing.