A student stocks a school bathroom with free pads and tampons

California Schools Now Required To Provide Period Products to Students for Free

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Starting next school year, California public schools and colleges will be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms.

The Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom last week, and applies to all public schools serving students in grades six through 12, as well as community colleges and the California State University System. It was sponsored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who is the same lawmaker who sponsored the recent groundbreaking bill banning “stealthing,” an insidious form of sexual assault.

“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,” Garcia said in a statement. “Often periods arrive at inconvenient times. They can surprise us during an important midterm, while playing with our children at a park, sitting in a lobby waiting to interview for a job, shopping at the grocery store, or even standing on the Assembly Floor presenting an important piece of legislation.”

“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,” she said.

In addition to wanting to be prepared for a surprise or otherwise inconvenient period, free, readily accessible period products are essential as hundreds of millions of menstruating people globally have difficulty accessing these products. Two-thirds of low-income women surveyed in one 2019 study say they did not have the resources to buy hygiene products at some point in the last year, and one-fifth of those surveyed say they have difficulty accessing those products on a monthly basis. One in five girls have reported missing school because of a lack of menstrual products.

Garcia sponsored a similar bill in 2017 that provides free access to menstrual products for low-income schools. Now California is making these essential products available to students at all schools, something a handful of other states have already done, while about 30 states still impose sales tax on them as if they are a luxury and not a basic health necessity.

Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to guarantee free period products to anyone who needs them.

(via ABC News, image: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.