Legislators continue fight for menstrual equity in recognition of Period Action Day

HARRISBURG, Oct. 8 — State Reps. Danielle Friel Otten and Sara Innamorato and several of their House and Senate colleagues rekindled the discussion on period poverty and menstrual equity in the Pennsylvania legislature by reintroducing legislation that would provide basic menstrual hygiene products to students.

Otten’s H.B. 1954 would require public schools throughout the commonwealth to make period products freely available to students in grades six through 12. Similarly, Innamorato’s legislation aims to provide complimentary pads and tampons in all of Pennsylvania’s public college and university bathrooms.

“Pads and tampons are not luxury items; they are necessities that every individual who menstruates needs and deserves access to,” Otten said. “Students in middle school or high school who don’t have access to period products may resort to making their own products out of old clothes or paper towels because they have no other option, and could miss school when these homemade alternatives are unavailable or inadequate. We can and must do better for the children of Pennsylvania and provide them with basic supplies while they’re at school. This is an equity issue. It is not acceptable for someone to miss out on their education because they lack access to these essential products.”

“Periods happen, and not having access to basic, hygienic period products shouldn't be a barrier in navigating the world,” Innamorato said. “But with one in five menstruating first-generation college students missing class due to a lack of period products, periods can disrupt learning, especially for low-income students. My proposed legislation would require public colleges and universities to provide these necessary products, just as they provide other basic hygiene products like soap and toilet paper.”

Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald and Sens. Maria Collett and Amanda Cappelletti also introduced legislation addressing period poverty in the commonwealth. Fitzgerald’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women legislation, H.B. 700, would require state prisons to provide hygiene products to incarcerated women at no cost. Collett and Cappelletti’s S.B. 602, or the Pennsylvania Menstrual Equity Act, would require schools and public agencies to make menstrual hygiene products available at no cost.

“For nearly a century, Pennsylvania has required that public bathroom facilities provide basic health and hygiene supplies such as toilet paper, soap and trash receptacles,” Collett said. “No similar requirement exists for menstrual products. To me, it’s a no-brainer. Humans need toilet paper. Public restrooms supply toilet paper. This is no different. Lack of access to these products can lead to compromised hygiene, embarrassment due to stigma, even missed days of work or school. And menstrual products are not covered by programs like SNAP or WIC, which means women and girls living in poverty are hit the hardest. Now more than ever, as we see the impact COVID is having on women in the workforce, we must work to eliminate barriers, not entrench them.”

Otten’s bill was referred to the House Education Committee on Oct. 5 and has 29 co-sponsors. Innamorato introduced her legislation last session as H.B. 2824 and plans to reintroduce it. Senate Bill 602 was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on April 27 and currently has 17 co-sponsors.

Otten and Innamorato noted that Oct. 9 is recognized as national Period Action Day. As legislators, they have worked to draw awareness to the issues of menstrual equity and period poverty since being elected to office in 2018 and have continued to advocate to end period poverty in Pennsylvania.

Questions may be directed to Otten’s office by calling 484-200-8259 or Innamorato’s office at 412-781-2750.