California requires free period products in public schools and college restrooms

Sacramento — California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a bill signed Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The move comes as women’s rights advocates across the country are pushing for affordable sanitary pads, tampons and other items.

California’s latest effort builds on a 2017 law requiring low-income schools in underserved areas to provide students with free menstrual products.

The law expands to include grades 6 through 12, community colleges and the California State University and University of California systems, beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Private schools and colleges are encouraged to do the same.

“Our biology doesn’t always send an advanced warning when we’re about to start our period, which often means we need to stop whatever we’re doing and deal with a period,” Democratic Representative Christina Garcia said of her legislation. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in nearly every public restroom, so should menstrual products.”

Several other states were considering or required free period products in public schools, according to advocacy group Women Voices for the Earth. Purdue University in Indiana decided last year to offer free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms.

“California is joining a growing number of states that are leading the way in demonstrating that menstrual equality is a human rights issue,” PERIOD said in a statement. “No student should waste time learning because of their monthly periods.”

California also previously eliminated a tax on menstrual products that cost women an estimated $20 million annually.

Women’s Voices for Earth says that more than half of states still tax menstrual products as a “luxury” good. Around the world, many countries have abolished such taxes, including Britain, Australia, Canada and India.

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