In the movement against period poverty, advocates and organizations like SAPP have been pushing for menstrual products made free. Struggles for menstruators to manage their periods have resulted in an average of missing 10-20% of school days per year. Without the access to the right supplies, many resort to using unhygienic substitutes that can cause urinary tract and other infections. In addition, when resources become scarce, menstruators are forced to prioritize menstrual products over food and other health needs to avoid the powering stigma surrounding periods. These individuals already have other issues to face: having no home, abusive relationships, health conditions, and many others. Having a menstrual cycle that society has made difficult to deal with would only make their situation worse. In the fight against period poverty, the government has decided to take action. On October 8, 2021, California State Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 367, or the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021.
Authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, AB 367 branches off of the 2017 AB 10 law, which prohibits public schools from charging menstrual products to students. This new law requires all public schools with grades 6-12 (and state colleges) to have at least 50% of their school restrooms to carry free menstrual products at all times. This includes men’s bathrooms, as not all menstruators are women. AB 367 also makes it mandatory for public agencies to stock 50% of all public restrooms or restrooms used by employees to have free menstrual products at all times. This law is stated to take effect during the 2022-2023 school year.
On November 24, 2020, Scotland became the first nation to make menstrual products free and required the government to supply it to whomever needs them, which served as a great inspiration to AB 367. Scotland’s law made it so that no one had to suffer with the inability to meet basic needs. They made it clear that having access to the right period products is a fundamental right to equality. Following in Scotland’s footsteps, ensuring free and easy access to menstrual products for everyone would support personal health and human dignity in California.
By expanding access to menstrual products to Californians, AB 367 serves as a significant step towards gender equity for women, transgender, and non-binary individuals and protect their health. Assemblywoman Garcia points out, “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. 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.”
About the Author:
Hey everyone! My name is Cynthia Liu and I am currently a junior at Irvington Highschool. As a communications officer at SAPP, I hope to create a change in my community by fighting against period poverty and educating others on the topic. I’m so excited to work alongside this incredible team this year!