Fitzgerald, Democratic lawmakers to hold news conference on legislation to increase accessibility of menstrual hygiene products

HARRISBURG, Oct. 18 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, will hold a news conference next week on H.B. 1708, which would require public schools serving students in grades six through 12 to provide free menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms. Reps. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., and state Sen. Maria Collett, D-Bucks/Montgomery, will also speak on menstrual equity bills they will be introducing.

The news conference will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 in the Capitol Rotunda.

Otten said her bill was inspired by one student’s concern over “period poverty,” or the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. Seventeen-year-old Lilly Minor from Owen J. Roberts High School told Otten that access to these products is limited in school bathrooms, and while they can be obtained at the nurse’s office, this is not the most accessible solution.

“Lilly brought this issue to my attention and reminded me that this issue is occurring even in a relatively affluent area, so the problem is likely to be significantly worse in less well-off regions of our commonwealth,” Otten said. “If girls and women cannot access these products, it impacts their ability to work, go to school and enjoy aspects of everyday life.”

Innamorato’s bill will focus on providing free menstrual hygiene products in the bathrooms of classroom buildings at Pennsylvania’s 14 public universities.

“One in five students has missed school due to a lack of period products,” Innamorato said. “This is unconscionable and is why I am introducing and co-sponsoring legislation alongside Representative Otten to require public schools, community colleges and other state-run higher education institutions to provide pads and tampons free of charge in their restrooms. Our students — our children, our peers, our neighbors — deserve better.”

Fitzgerald’s legislation seeks to increase the accessibility and variety of free sanitary pads and tampons to incarcerated women.

“Women everywhere deserve access to menstrual products to help them maintain their dignity and keep up with their health,” Fitzgerald said. “Representative Friel Otten’s efforts and my own H.B. 1008 are just two ways that we can ensure all women have access to the hygiene products they need.”

Collett’s bill would require Pennsylvania’s public agencies that serve those who are young, low-income, homeless or incarcerated to make menstrual hygiene products available at no cost.

"Humans need toilet paper. Public restrooms supply toilet paper. This is no different. Lack of public access to these products, especially among those living in poverty, can lead to compromised hygiene, stigma, even missed days of work or school. For a nominal cost, we can make sure Pennsylvania's women and girls are able to participate fully in society."

Questions regarding H.B. 1708 or the news conference may be directed to Otten’s office at
(484) 200-8259.