SENATE VOTES FOR HISTORIC EXPANSION OF ACCESS TO MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS
Menstrual equity legislation would make products available for free in schools, shelters, and correctional facilities across the state
(BOSTON–10/27/23) The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to broadly expand access to menstrual products in a wide range of public facilities across the state on Thursday.
The bill—S.2481, An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products—would require safe and disposable menstrual products to be provided in the Commonwealth’s primary and secondary schools, correctional institutions, and shelters and temporary housing facilities at no cost to recipients. It would also require products to be distributed in a non-stigmatizing and convenient way.
“Period products are not luxuries, but necessities required for people’s basic needs, health, and hygiene. Today’s passage of the I AM bill affirms that women and all menstruating people deserve access to menstrual products,” said Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “An inaccessibility of period products speaks to the longstanding and persistent misogyny in our society, a bias that intersects with inequalities in housing, education, socioeconomics, and beyond. By ensuring better access to these products, we support further access to essential health needs regardless of our situation in life.”
“We live in a world where roughly 50 per cent of people menstruate, yet today in Massachusetts, we offer them nowhere near the support that we should,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “If we truly believe in equality for women and menstruating people in our Commonwealth, then making period products accessible to our students and those in vulnerable situations is the right thing to do, and something we must do.”
Residents who require menstrual products like pads and tampons currently need to buy them, an expense that is particularly burdensome for people with low incomes or in vulnerable situations. Accessing menstrual products is also difficult for young people and people without access to reliable transportation.
“I’m heartened to see this bill establish no cost disposable menstrual products for women in schools, temporary housing facilities, and correctional institutions. It’s long overdue and another proactive step forward for the Senate,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
“I learned about this issue from young people in Medford High School, Somerville High School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin who took leadership at the local level to make menstrual hygiene products available in their own communities,” said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville). “This is a true grassroots movement starting with girls talking about their experiences of missing valuable class time or feeling embarrassed to access products during the school day. These conversations have already started to
change the culture and have motivated us to expand this across the state. I am so thankful for the advocacy of students, MassNOW and the support of Chairs Cyr and Decker as well as Senate President Spilka."
According to the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition, approximately one in seven children in Massachusetts is living in poverty and struggles to pay for menstrual products. Research shows that an inability to access menstrual products affects students’ class attendance.
Those facing homelessness and individuals who are incarcerated also face high barriers to access, with Massachusetts shelters reporting that menstrual products are among the least donated items. Restricted access in shelters and correctional facilities means that products can be used as bargaining chips and tools of control for people in vulnerable circumstances.
If signed into law, the bill would align Massachusetts with 24 other states that already provide free menstrual products in correctional facilities, 12 other states that provide free menstrual products in schools, and 3 other states that provide free menstrual products in shelters.
The legislation has the support of a broad coalition of advocates from around the Commonwealth.
“By providing access to free, quality menstrual products to public school students, incarcerated people who menstruate and homeless people who menstruate, we are taking on issues of public health, economic inequality, educational equity, and gender equity all at once. It’s one of the best examples of intersectional lawmaking and feminist policy,” said Sasha Goodfriend, Executive Director of Mass NOW.
“To ‘Love Your Menses’ means to be in tune with your menstrual cycle, to advocate for equitable resources and safe spaces to menstruate, to end period poverty, to support other people who menstruate, and most importantly, to flow through life unapologetically,” said Dr. Ebere Azumah, Co-Founder and President of Love Your Menses. “We believe the passing of Bill S.2481 will allow those who do not have access to menstrual products to flow through public spaces unapologetically. Thank you to state of Massachusetts for leading the way once again.”
This is the second consecutive legislative session in which the Senate has passed this legislation. Having been passed by the Senate, the bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.