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American Morning

Interview with Colleen Carboy

Aired August 09, 2002 - 08:14   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Embarrassing and disgusting, that's how Elizabeth McGarry describes her experience at New York's JFK Airport. The Long Island mother was forced by security guards to drink her own breast milk from three separate bottles before boarding a plane to prove it was safe.
That story mirrors that of Dallas Attorney Colleen Carboy. Back in January, she was ordered to drink from a bottle of breast milk she was carrying at the airport in Austin, Texas, but she refused.

And Colleen Carboy joins us this morning to talk about her experience.

Good morning.


ZAHN: So why aren't you suing?

CARBOY: I think it's more a matter of making sure that the airport security people get educated and they know how to handle delicate situations.

ZAHN: Describe just exactly what happened.

CARBOY: Well, I was, I'm a plaintiffs medical malpractice lawyer and I was on my way back from a deposition, going through the Austin airport. And I was carrying my breast pump with me since I was away from my baby to express the milk to give her at a later time. And I always got bag check, you know, when it went through the machine. And so I walked over to the gentleman and told him it's a breast pump, you know, real discreetly.

So he was going through all of the zippers and took out one of the bottles of breast milk and he said is this your milk? And I kind of laughed, yes, yes, it's my milk. And so he said well, you need to drink some. And I thought for sure he was joking. And so I kind of chuckled a little bit. And he looked at me and he said you need to drink some.

And I said, sir, that's my baby's milk. That's not for me. I'm not going to drink it. And he ordered me like two more times, you need to drink some. And so I told him I'm not going to stand here in the middle of the airport drinking my breast milk. It's just not going to happen. And so he said are you refusing to drink some? And I said absolutely.

ZAHN: Yes, right. Yes, I am.

CARBOY: And so he went and got a security guard and it was a lady security guard. And they held it up to the light. And by now there were some people kind of standing around because they knew there was a bit of a confrontation going on. And the two of them, I guess, decided it must look like breast milk and so then they let me go on my way.

ZAHN: So how would you describe the overall experience? Were you humiliated and was it as disgusting as this other woman described at JFK Airport?

CARBOY: It's humiliating because I like to keep my private life separate from my business life. And I felt like there I was, you know, out in public kind of baring all. You know, and it's a private matter, you know, for women.

ZAHN: How could the security people have handled it better? You know, you're, you obviously are not going to sue, as this other woman is, and your hope is just to better educate folks that may encounter these kinds of situations at airports across the country. In fact, I'm sure you're hoping they do encounter it, because you like the fact that women breast-feed their children. You think it's healthier for their babies.


ZAHN: But how should they handle these situations?

CARBOY: Well, I learned later that they had three options that they could have used when they have liquid and they want to rule out that it's not an inflammable material. They could either have you drink it or they can smell it or they can run it through their sensor machine, is what I was told by the head of security later when I called to try to get them to change their policy on making the women drink breast milk.

ZAHN: So you only have a problem with being forced to taste it? You don't mind it being held up to the other two of those procedures, held up to the light and...

CARBOY: Right. But I mean some women are more private about it so I think that they should give a woman an option of going in a private room, because it depends on the woman. Some women are more comfortable with the public aspect of it and some women aren't.

ZAHN: But just to make sure people fully understand where you're coming from on this, you do agree that security needs to be very tight now and that precautions need to be taken?

CARBOY: Oh, absolutely. I think they need to, you know, rule out that it's not an inflammable, but from what I've been told they have other options that they should use.

ZAHN: What do you think about someone suing over this? Is it appropriate? CARBOY: I think it really is kind of a personal decision and it depends on how that woman was treated at that particular time.

ZAHN: Well, I guess she described it as being insulted, insulting and that the process was evasive and that she had offered to put some drops of the milk on her arm and lick it off her arm to prove that it was, in fact, her milk, but they wouldn't let her do that.

CARBOY: Well, the other issue, though, is from making her take her lips up to the bottle, then you really can't store the milk and give it to your baby at a later time because it's contaminated. So I mean they really didn't give her any courtesies at all when she did offer, you know, to do other things so.

ZAHN: And have you heard from anybody from the airlines or the airport since your incident? No?

CARBOY: No. Not since I talked with the head of security and tried to get them to change their policy on that.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your dropping by and sharing your story with us.

How is your baby? Healthy? Happy?

CARBOY: Very healthy, very happy.

ZAHN: Good.

Colleen Carboy, again, thanks for your time this morning and welcome to New York.

CARBOY: Oh, thank you.