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California Makes Strides In The Fight Against Period Poverty

If California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia has her way, all menstruators in her state will soon have access to free period products.

Last month, the self-proclaimed “Period Princess” introduced Assembly Bill 367; the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021, which requires all state university and community college campuses, grade 6-12 public schools and state/local municipal buildings to provide menstrual products.

If passed, the bill would be one giant leap toward menstrual equity in the United States.

“Having convenient and free access to these products means our period won’t prevent us from being productive members of society, and would alleviate the anxiety of trying to find a product when out in public,” Assemblymember Garcia said in a news release.

“Stocking California’s public restrooms in schools, colleges and government buildings with free menstrual products brings us one step closer to making sure periods are never a problem for people who menstruate,” added Days for Girls Founder/CEO Celeste Mergens.

Inspired by Scotland’s The Period Products (Free Provision) Bill, AB 367 will help ensure that access to period products is a human right. The Scotland bill passed unanimously in November and requires period products to be obtainable in schools, colleges and certain public places free of charge.

“Scotland showed the world that pioneering policy can be passed, with bipartisan support, and become law,” Assemblymember Garcia said.

Other period-conscious countries are also making strides to ensure menstruating students get the supplies they need:

  • England began offering free products in state schools and colleges in January 2020.
  • This past February, the French government said it would install machines dispensing free tampons and pads in student residences and at university health services.
  • New Zealand officials will soon provide free period products in all school nationwide.

“When countries like Scotland, France and New Zealand pioneer legislation for menstrual equity, they pave the way for other nations and states to consider similar actions for women, girls and menstruators,” Celeste said. “It’s time the lawmakers, legislators, governments and institutions around the world stand up for people with periods and make access to period products a basic human right.”

Assemblymember Garcia has been a driving force behind period dignity policies in the Golden State. In 2017, she had legislation signed into law that brought free menstrual products to low-income schools in underserved communities. And later, she helped repeal the tax charged on menstrual health products.

“Anytime menstrual equity is brought to the forefront with legislation like AB-367, it is good for people who menstruate— 50% of our population,” Celeste said. “We are hopeful that this bill passes. In the process it will raise awareness of the need for menstrual equity, influencing lawmakers in other states to work toward similar goals.”

California and Illinois were the first states to provide menstrual products in public middle school and high school bathrooms in 2018 – with New York and New Hampshire following in 2019. And thanks to the activism of students who are making their voices heard at assemblies, on social media and by lobbying lawmakers, school boards throughout the country are taking note.

“This legislation also raises awareness about the issue of menstrual equity and leads the way for other states to follow suit,” Celeste said.

 

Laurie Bailey
Laurie Bailey is journalist and media relations consultant who has worked for numerous publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Business Times, covering health, wellness, education, business, technology and nonprofits. She also leads the Murrysville, Pa. Days for Girls Team.