Menstrual equity legislation would make products available for free in schools, shelters, and correctional facilities across the state
(BOSTON–10/26/23) Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to broadly expand access to menstrual products in a wide range of public facilities across the state.
The bill — S.2481, An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products — would require safe and disposable menstrual products to be provided in the Commonwealth’s primary and secondary schools, correctional institutions, shelters, and temporary housing facilities at no cost to recipients. It would also require products to be distributed in a non-stigmatizing and convenient way.
“The Senate continues to lead on the issue of menstrual equity and expanding access to menstrual products for the over 50 percent of Massachusetts residents that menstruate,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “It is vital that we address the challenges that costs and other barriers present for individuals trying to obtain menstrual products, and this legislation is an impactful step forward in that effort. For the second consecutive session, the Senate has passed this bill and I’m hopeful the House will take swift action this session to put this legislation on the Governor’s desk.”
Residents who require menstrual products like pads and tampons currently need to buy them, an expense that is particularly burdensome for residents with low incomes or in vulnerable situations. Accessing menstrual products is also difficult for young people and people without access to reliable transportation.
According to the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition, approximately one in seven children in Massachusetts is living in poverty and struggles to pay for menstrual products. Research shows that the inability to access menstrual products affects students’ class attendance.
Those facing homelessness and individuals who are incarcerated also face high barriers to access, with Massachusetts shelters reporting that menstrual products are among the least donated items. Restricted access in shelters and correctional facilities means that products can be used as bargaining chips and tools of control for people in vulnerable circumstances.
If signed into law, the bill would align Massachusetts with 24 other states that already provide free menstrual products in correctional facilities, 12 other states that provide free menstrual products in schools, and 3 other states that provide free menstrual products in shelters.
This is the second consecutive legislative session in which the Senate has passed this legislation. Having been passed by the Senate, the bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.