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‘We’re reducing the burden of period poverty’; Pritzker signs bills increasing access to menstrual products

“Meeting the hygiene needs of women and girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity and public health,” said state Rep. LaToya Greenwood.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs three pieces of legislation aimed at reducing the financial barriers to menstrual products Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs three pieces of legislation aimed at reducing the financial barriers to menstrual products.
Blue Room Stream/Screenshot

Menstrual products will be provided free of charge at shelters for homeless people and in campus bathrooms at public universities and community colleges under pieces of legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“Given the high price of menstrual products such as pads and tampons, it’s no wonder that many women below the poverty line have had to sacrifice their personal health and hygiene in order to afford food or other basic necessities, turning to socks and toilet paper to manage their menstrual cycle,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker was joined by the sponsors of House Bills 155, 310 and 641 which he signed Thursday at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The bills increase access to menstrual products, necessities “which fit right alongside hand soap and toilet paper as critical hygiene care” that can make or break a student’s day, the governor said.

Another piece of legislation Pritzker signed requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to allow those who receive assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, to use the benefits they receive for diapers and menstrual hygiene products.

Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said the legislation signed Thursday “recognizes a simple fact of biology: about half our population experiences menstruation throughout a significant portion of their lifetimes.”

“We all agree collectively that soap, toilet paper, napkins, tissues, seat covers and all those other things are provided for us in public spaces,” said Stuart, a sponsor of the legislation. “In fact, we probably don’t really ever think about it until we’re in a situation where we really need something like that, and it’s just not there. This legislation puts menstrual hygiene products in that same category, which is exactly where they belong.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said in its report titled “The Unequal Price of Periods” that people who menstruate can expect to spend “upwards of $1,000” on menstruation products over the course of their lifetime, a price that forces some to turn to “degrading and unhygienic” options, like rags, diapers or paper, to get through that time of the month.

Rep. LaToya Greenwood, who was also a sponsor on the pieces of legislation, said the bills establish access to “fundamental support” for those on college campus as well as “vulnerable individuals desperately in need.”

“Meeting the hygiene needs of women and girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity and public health,” said Greenwood, D-East St. Louis.