The measure calls for public schools serving students in grades 6-12 to stock bathrooms with an adequate supply of tampons or pads.
It goes into effect for the 2022-23 school year and expands on a previous law which required low-income schools to provide free menstrual hygiene products.
“California recognizes that access to menstrual products is a basic human right and is vital for ensuring the health, dignity, and full participation of all Californians in public life,” the law says.
The law also requires California State University — a system of 23 campuses around the state — and each community college district to stock an adequate supply of free menstrual products in at least one designated and accessible central location on Campus. It encourages the Regents of the University of California and private institutions in the state to take similar steps.
“Our biology doesn’t always send an advanced warning when we’re about to start menstruating, which often means we need to stop whatever we’re doing and deal with a period. Often periods arrive at inconvenient times,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, the legislation’s author, in a statement. “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.”
The state has also eliminated taxation of menstrual products, which Garcia said cost Californians born with a uterus more than $20 million a year.
A study conducted earlier this year found a quarter of teens said they struggled to afford period products, up from one in five teens in 2019.
Limited access to period products is a global issue and period poverty is causing many people to miss out on opportunities.
Last year, Scotland became the first country to make tampons and pads available for free.