Girls will soon be able to access period products for free in Ohio school bathrooms.
The state’s new operating budget includes a $5 million appropriation for the current fiscal year to install dispensers that will provide free period products in schools that enroll girls in grades 6-12. The bill also allows schools to offer free period products to students younger than sixth grade if they so choose.
“There are cheers all across the state right now from women and girls who are going to be so excited to find out in the future girls will be able to access period products at no costs in their schools,” Senate Minority Leader Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood, said Wednesday afternoon during a press conference.
The budget allocates up to $2 million in fiscal year 2024 for public, non-public and charter schools to install dispensers for feminine hygiene products in each of their buildings. It also provide $3 million toward purchasing the products.
“We have regulated the provision of toilet paper and paper towels in public restrooms, so too we should do the same for menstrual products,” Antonio said. “It’s unhygienic and a danger actually to one’s health not to have access to menstrual products, so just like toilet paper, we need to have free and accessible access.”
Twenty-three other states have enacted similar legislation, including Alabama, California, Illinois and Maryland.
Nearly 1 in 5 girls have missed school because they don’t have access to period products.
“It really gets in the way of them being able to rise to their fullest potential,” Antonio said. “When students lack access to period products, they face barriers and may avoid going out in public while wearing period stained clothing in public without the necessary sanctuary products.”
Girls shouldn’t have to choose between going to school and being able to purchase period products, said State Senator Stephanie Kunze, R-Dublin.
“Missing a school day or missing partial school days over time is a really significant loss of educational time for girls,” she said.
Lawmakers and advocates expect to see girls attendance in schools improve as a result of Ohio’s budget provision.
School attendance at a New York City high school went up 2.4% after the school started providing free tampons and pads in bathrooms.
About two-thirds of low-income women could not afford menstrual products at some point, according to research published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal in 2019.
One in six women and girls between the ages of 12 to 44 are below the federal poverty line in Ohio, said Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus. Ohio’s federal poverty line for one person is $14,580.
“Translation: they can’t always afford period products,” she said
This budget provision aims to reduce period poverty.
“It’s going to be so important to those students in those schools to be able to have the best education they can,” Driehaus said.
In an effort to cut costs, some women use the same period products for too long without changing it.
“That’s a health risk,” she said. “If they are accessible products in school bathrooms, that would not be an issue. You go in and get the product and away you go.”
The average women in the United States spends close to $2,000 on tampons throughout her lifetime, according to a 2015 article in Huffington Post.
“Providing no-cost period products in Ohio schools enables students to attend class, reduces period poverty and fosters gender equity,” Driehaus said.
Kinsey Sullivan, a high school student at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, knows firsthand how important it is having free period products accessible in schools.
“I don’t know if you know how awkward it is to slide a pad up your sleeve to walk to the bathroom,” she said. “Everyone is looking at you. You have to ruffle through your backpack to just find one and it would be so much easier if they were provided for you in your bathroom.”
Sullivan said this will improve girls’ mental health and confidence overall.
“All students deserve this opportunity to learn, thrive and feel supported in schools,” she said. “It’s time that tampons and pads are provided for in the same way as toilet paper and soap.”
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.