Colorado Rights Blog

Rachel Pryor-Lease By: Rachel Pryor-Lease 3.13.2014

A Room of One’s Own

When I found out that I was pregnant with twins, I was incredibly excited and also completely terrified. There were so many things to learn, including whether or not I would be able to breastfeed two infants. And then, 9 weeks before their due date, my babies decided that they were ready to make their appearance. They were tiny – both under 4 pounds – and not ready to be out in the big, bad world. Because they were so little and needed help eating, they had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for about 6 weeks. They needed all the support they could get, and for me, a brand-new mom only able to come for visits, that meant providing them with that ultimate, perfect food: breast milk.

When they were newborns, my babies were too little and weak to breastfeed, so that meant that, at first, I could only pump. Pumping breast milk is not glamorous. It’s hard not to feel a bit bovine. Plus, it can hurt, and since you have to pump about every 3 hours, it definitely restricts where you can go and what you can do when you’re not pumping.

After my kids got out of the hospital, I was lucky to have another 6 weeks at home with them. It was difficult leaving them to come back to work, but it was such a comfort knowing that I had such a supportive office environment for pumping. I was given access to a private room with a comfortable chair and some extra little touches just for me. I was given the freedom of a flexible schedule and understanding coworkers. So, when I am pumping, my only worry is about making enough milk for my babies and not about whether or not I will be able to pump at all.

Sadly, I am one of the luckier mothers in the working world. I have heard about other women, most recently at DISH Network, being forced to pump in front of their coworkers, being forced to pump in bathrooms, or not being allowed to pump on their own schedule. As much as I love my job and my coworkers, I would definitely not feel comfortable exposing myself to them in order to pump. And the idea of pumping – producing food for my children – in a germy, bacteria-ridden bathroom completely grosses me out, especially considering I won’t even pick up my kids, with their delicate immune systems, without washing my hands first.

Federal and state laws require employers to provide working mothers with an appropriate and comfortable place to pump, and the ACLU of Colorado has successfully defended those rights in the past. Nevertheless, some companies still refuse to do the right thing. It is surprising and disheartening to learn that in an era where “family values” are often cited as under attack, more companies aren’t embracing their working mothers and allowing them the time and privacy to provide for their children.



  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.