Beginning next year, California public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products in bathrooms under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Introduced by state Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, the law, known as the Menstrual Equity for All Act, requires public schools with grades 6 through 12 to stock 50% of bathrooms with free period products by the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, expanding upon a 2017 law that required the same in low-income schools.
The law also extends to public community colleges and the California State University system, which includes approximately 485,550 students across 23 campuses. The measure encourages the Regents of the University of California as well as private institutions to follow suit.
“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,” Garcia said 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.”
Garcia, who proclaims herself the “Period Princess”, was also part of a law passed earlier this year that eliminated a state tax on menstrual products, which she said costs Californians roughly $20 million a year.
She said she gained inspiration from a 2020 bill passed in Scotland that requires free period products be available in all public places. Worldwide, countries like Britain, Australia, Canada and India have eliminated taxes on products.
“Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathrooms, so should menstrual products. It is time we recognize and respond to the biology of half the population by prioritizing free access to menstrual products, and eliminating all barriers to them,” she said.
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Several other states were considering or have required free menstrual products in public schools, according to advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth. Purdue University in Indiana decided last year to offer free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms.
In a study commissioned by PERIOD, a menstrual equality advocacy group, 23% of students ages 13-to-19 said they struggled to afford period products, with the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacting resources.
“California joins a growing number of states who lead the way in demonstrating that menstrual equity is a matter of human rights,” PERIOD said in a statement. “No student should ever lose learning time due to their periods, period.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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