(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, and 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 establishment of no cost disposable menstrual products for women in schools, temporary housing facilities, and correctional institutions is long overdue. The Senate has taken a monumental and proactive step in ensuring accessibility for all,” said Senator Michael D. Brady (D-Brockton), Chair of the Public Service Committee.
Residents who require menstrual products like pads and tampons currently need to buy them, an expense that is particularly burdensome for 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 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.
The legislation has the support of a broad coalition of advocates from around the Commonwealth.
“By providing access to free, quality menstrual products to public school students, incarcerated people who menstruate and homeless people who menstruate, we are taking on issues of public health, economic inequality, educational equity, and gender equity all at once. It’s one of the best examples of intersectional lawmaking and feminist policy,” said Sasha Goodfriend, Executive Director of Mass NOW.
“To ‘Love Your Menses’ means to be in tune with your menstrual cycle, to advocate for equitable resources and safe spaces to menstruate, to end period poverty, to support other people who menstruate, and most importantly, to flow through life unapologetically,” said Dr. Ebere Azumah, Co-Founder and President of Love Your Menses. “We believe the passing of Bill S.2481 will allow those who do not have access to menstrual products to flow through public spaces unapologetically. Thank you to state of Massachusetts for leading the way once again.”
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.