Menstrual Product Access Bill Advances Unanimously

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bill to Provide Menstrual Products in Schools, Colleges and Homeless Shelters Builds Support

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s (D-Bell Gardens) legislation to provide free menstrual products in schools, universities and homeless shelters, AB 10, today was approved by the Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee with a unanimous vote. 

Tampons and pads are a healthcare essential and should be provided for free to remove all barriers to education, as well as curtail absenteeism and public health issues, according to the legislation.   Last year New York City ran a pilot program installing tampon and pad dispensers in ten of its schools.  The outcome showed a 2.4% increase in attendance. Given schools are funded by the federal government in part by attendance; increased attendance alone is an economic incentive for schools throughout California to make these health products available to students.

“California is now behind the curve of leading on this vital social justice issue,” said Garcia, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Menstrual products are basic health needs.”

Our periods and the added burden we deal with everyone month for 40 years does not discriminate based on income, location or race. There is no way to predict how heavy the flow of a woman’s cycle will be.  The reality is that all women face emergencies necessitating the immediate availability of these products.  Publically struggling with a stain or having to ask strangers for help when your have an emergency as a young woman is preventable if products are provided as proposed in this legislation. But if you are poor the burden is compounded and every month women have to decide if they isolate themselves because they can't afford these essentials or if they beg or even steal them. 

The FDA lists menstrual products as medical devices.  Women are most sensitive to bacterial infections during their periods and women who try to extend the amount of time they use a tampon risk serious health consequences.  Poor or homeless women are most likely to extend the amount of time they use their tampons or pads.  When these women fall ill due to these infections, they often turn to publicly funded emergency rooms for medical attention at a far higher cost to taxpayers.   There are 4.6 million women living in poverty in California alone underscoring the need economic relief for these women. 

“Women bleed monthly for 40 years of their lives because of their biology.  We must make menstrual products available to women and girls who struggle with access to these basic health necessities,” added Garcia.  “If we truly value women’s health, we’ll remove the stigma associated with a basic healthcare need and treat this fact-of-life like any other medical necessity.  This is about gender equity and social justice.”

The bill will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.