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Nebraska redistricting session takes a turn after mothers’ nursing room ‘renovation’

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - The second week of a special Nebraska lawmakers session took an odd turn Wednesday when several women of the legislature put the male-dominated Unicameral on notice.

Instead of debating the redistricting process and redrawing maps, one senator gave up her office at the Capitol out of anger and her commitment to the working moms of Nebraska.

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh cleared out her office Wednesday afternoon. The incident stemmed from the overthrowing of the mothers’ room at the state capitol. A male staffer seemingly took over the room to make it his own office.

“I found out yesterday, the furniture has been moved out. The room is being used as an office for a gentleman,” Cavanaugh said.

The former mothers’ room, a quiet and private space, consisted of four chairs for soon-to-be and breastfeeding moms.

The male senator, State Sen. Dan Hughes, who leads the Executive Committee in charge of rearranging office space, said the room needed to be used as an office because of an overhaul of the heating and cooling system at the State Capitol.

“And many of you remember you want to make changes to your office, and I have to make tough decisions,” said Sen. Hughes.

Cavanaugh wasn’t bluffing; she even took down the artwork from her office so the gentleman in the mothers’ room could use her desk.

“We constantly, continually in this body ask women to make the moral decision to bring life into this world, and then we turn our backs on them when they make this decision to do it,” said State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha.

Hughes responded and reiterated that there is already a pod for nursing mothers.

“It’s not like we took away the only option for nursing mothers,” he said.

The nursing pod he speaks of is in the copy room on the first floor of the Nebraska State Capitol. It does not have a sink to clean pumping equipment nor does it have a refrigerator to store milk.

“The pod is a space a woman can go privately and pump or nurse a baby; it’s not a mothers’ room. It is just a space where the public doesn’t just walk in on you,” Cavanaugh said.

When she was first elected in 2019, she had a newborn son. At the time, the designated mothers’ room was an empty stall in the bathroom at the State Capitol.

The most recent mothers’ room — before the furniture was moved into the hallway — was paid for by donors. The anonymous person generously contributed more than $30,000 to have the room for women in need.

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