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THE ARGUMENT

Should Massachusetts require diaper changing stations in all new and renovated public buildings?

Becca Rausch
Becca RauschHandout

YES

Becca Rausch

State Senator, Needham Democrat

If you’re a parent out with your young child, chances are you will need to change a diaper. (Let’s be real — maybe several diapers.) Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a diaper changing station outside of a women’s bathroom. What’s a dad to do? What about families with two dads? What about gender non-binary parents? We’re long past the time when only mothers change diapers. Massachusetts can and should do better.

That’s why I filed S.75, An Act providing for diaper changing stations in public buildings. It’s a short and simple bill that will solve a big, messy problem and make a real difference to Bay Staters and visitors alike. Plus, making this improvement can cost as little as a few hundred dollars per building.

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The bill calls for gender-neutral, fully accessible diaper changing stations in all new or substantially renovated buildings that are open to the public. The legislation requires a sanitary place for all caregivers to change diapers regardless of gender or ability, while also deconstructing the notion that only women do the duty of childcare.

Currently, diaper changing stations exist in many (not all) public women’s restrooms. This is great, but it’s not enough. Too often, parents and caregivers who don’t use women’s restrooms must change their babies’ diapers on a dirty floor (including the men’s room floor), on top of a bar, or in some other ridiculous location, or wait to change a soiled diaper. That’s not acceptable.

This much-needed change would be the Commonwealth’s first law to specifically address fully accessible changing stations in buildings open to the public. In 2016, President Obama signed “Bathrooms Accessible In Every Situation” (the “BABIES Act”) into law. It requires all publicly accessible federal buildings to have diaper changing stations in both men’s and women’s restrooms, notably advancing gender parity in parenting. In recent years, California and New York adopted legislation requiring diaper changing stations in many of their new or renovated public buildings. It’s time for Massachusetts to take action.

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All parents and caregivers in our Commonwealth should be able to change their children’s diapers in a safe, sanitary, and accessible setting, regardless of gender or ability.

Tom Mountain
Tom MountainHandout

NO

Tom Mountain

Newton resident, member of the Republican State Committee

When politicians start legislating restrooms it is a given they have too much time on their hands. But it’s also indicative of an intrusive bureaucratic mindset that believes government should legislate every aspect of people’s lives.

Even when changing diapers outside the home.

A bill introduced on Beacon Hill would mandate that every new public building or building undergoing a major renovation must install a baby changing station on its premises, with a focus on having them being gender-neutral, which would also help “gender non-binary” parents.

Proponents of this requirement apparently believe that changing diapers should by now be routine for men anyway. And they seem intent on ensuring they do it by ordering every new public building across the Commonwealth to install a baby changing station so men will have nary an excuse to bug out of their parental duty.

This is symptomatic of the relentless regulatory burden that government imposes on business owners, small and large, often at great inconvenience and cost.

This bill would apply not only to new buildings but any business seeking extensive renovations or remodeling. And, as usual, it is small businesses that would be affected the most.

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Yet Senator Becca Rausch, the bill’s sponsor, claims that this would merely cost as little as a few hundred dollars to implement.

Hardly.

Ever dine at those quaint North End restaurants with the tiny bathrooms?

Under this proposal if those restaurants wanted to remodel, their closet-type bathrooms would have to accommodate diaper duty since the bill would require access to diaper changing stations “regardless of sex, gender, or disability.”

The same goes for those quaint ice cream shops in Provincetown or the favorite clam shacks on Cape Ann where there is hardly enough elbow room to go to the bathroom, let alone change diapers.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to this type of government overreach. Behold the private sector. Last year the Pampers diaper company announced the start of a campaign to put 5,000 diaper tables in men’s restrooms across the United States and Canada. It’s a good start. With voluntary initiatives like that, we might just solve the problem without burdening businesses.

This is not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.