UTAH (ABC4) – On February 1, the Utah House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that would fund the placement of free period products in all Utah public and charter schools.
The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, is the product of ongoing work on part of a local nonpartisan group, The Policy Project. The organization, which is helmed by Emily Bell McCormick, has been advocating for menstrual equity since 2018 — taking on issues such as the widespread lack of access to period products — with an ultimate vision of ending period poverty in the state.
And now, they’re one step closer to their goal.
After receiving an outpouring of support from the Utah House of Representatives, the bill will now be placed before the Senate for consideration.
McCormick has been particularly passionate about this issue because, as she puts it, access to menstrual products is “as fundamental as toilet paper.” As it stands now, school offices aren’t even required to stock period products, though they often do. And even so, it can be a deterrent for young girls who might feel insecure or embarrassed about menstruation.
“We would absolutely never say, ‘Hey, if you need to go number two, we just need you to stop at the office really fast, get some toilet paper, so that everybody knows that you need to go number two, and then you can go to the bathroom and go,’” McCormick told ABC4.com. “But we do that with menstrual products right now. We’ve just become accustomed to something that is wrong and backwards.”
Under the new bill, period supply dispensers would be placed in Utah public school bathrooms and filled with essential period products. Private donors would fund the dispensers, while the state government would appropriate funds to fill the dispensers with tampons and pads. According to McCormick, the total cost to the government would rest between 3.5 and 4.5 million dollars. The state education budget for the 2021 fiscal year was reportedly $5.7 billion.
“In the grand scheme of public education, it’s a very small price tag for a huge impact,” McCormick said. “Every girl bleeds; the impact is huge.”
And indeed, having free products at school allows girls who can’t otherwise afford the essential products the freedom to go about their daily activities without being concerned about how they will handle menstruation. According to a nationwide study, 68% of girls have missed school due to lack of period supplies. Providing tampons and pads in school would allow students from lower-income homes access to these essentials without adding more financial strain on their families.
“This is a real opportunity for Utah to lead,” McCormick said of the bill. “To have a mandate in schools and also the legislative funding to support it is an opportunity for Utah to show that they value keeping all students in school.”