Often, women’s public bathrooms don’t provide menstrual products—and if they do, they usually cost money.
But a group of lawmakers in the House and Senate is ramping up an effort to change that.
The four measures they are proposing would affect women’s bathrooms in public schools, public colleges and universities, state prisons and other public agencies that serve the young, poor, homeless or incarcerated.
Bucks County Democratic Senator Maria Collett, who is sponsoring the last bill on the list, said the public restrooms covered under the legislation would have to provide menstrual products for free.
She likens the arrangement to a requirement that bathrooms have toilet paper, which has been law in Pennsylvania since 1921.
“In 2018, custodial paper products only accounted for 0.0005 percent of our state general fund budget,” she noted.
Supporters of the legislation say stigma about discussing menstruation publicly has led to an obvious public health issue going unaddressed.
Lynette Medley is one of those people.
She runs a Philadelphia group called No More Secrets that distributes menstrual products, and said she has met teenagers who use socks and gloves from their schools’ lost and found as replacements for pads and tampons.
“This is period poverty,” she said. “Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints.”
Two of the proposed bills are formally introduced, and two are still collecting co-sponsors.
Collett said while she’s gotten some pushback, she’s also seen some bipartisan support, and has high hopes for the package.