Fitzgerald, Democratic lawmakers strive to increase accessibly of menstrual hygiene products, end period poverty

HARRISBURG, Oct. 23 – State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, accompanied by Reps. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and Isabella Fitzgerald, D-Phila., and state Sen. Maria Collett, D-Bucks/Montgomery, on Tuesday hosted a press conference on their bills that seek to end period poverty in Pennsylvania.

Period poverty, or the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, is a problem that Otten said affects 1 in 5 American women. Her bill, H.B.1708, would require Pennsylvania’s public schools to supply pads and tampons in bathrooms serving students in grades six through 12.

"Menstrual products are not a luxury, but a basic necessity,” Otten said. “This is an issue of access, beyond just dollars and cents. It's an issue of our children's health, safety and well-being. It's about setting up our girls and young women with what they need to have a level playing field. It's about ensuring dignity and equity for half our population so that they can fully participate in school, the workplace and society."

Innamorato spoke on her bill that would require Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities to supply menstrual hygiene products at no cost inside campus bathrooms.

“When you enter a public restroom on a college or university campus, you’re provided hand soap and towels to support hand hygiene. Why don’t we treat menstruation as a basic hygiene need for our students?” Innamorato said. “Our public colleges and universities are seeing a rise in the need for on-campus food pantries and students experiencing homelessness. Our students are struggling to make ends meet -- providing basic hygiene equipment alleviates some of their burden.”

Fitzgerald detailed her legislation, H.B. 1008, which would provide dignity to incarcerated women. Her bill would require state prisons to provide at least two varieties of sanitary pads and two varieties of tampons to all female inmates at no cost.

“The pieces of legislation Representative Friel Otten, Representative Innamorato, Senator Collett and I have proposed are about dignity,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re talking about hygiene products, a very basic element of women’s health care. Women everywhere – whether young women attending high school or public college, or women who are incarcerated – deserve access to these basic hygiene products.”

Collett discussed her bill that 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.

"The overwhelming support I've received since introducing my menstrual equity legislation begs the question, why is this the first time we’re having this conversation in Harrisburg? The solutions are simple, even if the conversations aren't,” Collett said. “Ending the deeply entrenched stigma surrounding menstruation is the first step. Humans need toilet paper, and restroom facilities provide toilet paper. At no cost. Humans need to wash their hands to prevent the spread of disease. We provide soap, water and paper towels. At no cost. How is this any different?"

A video from the press conference can be found here.