Last year, on Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th, 2021) Congresswomen Grace Meng of New York introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act. This act is a bold and comprehensive initiative that seeks to help menstruators afford and access menstrual products nationwide.
“Period products are necessary and essential items for anyone who menstruates, and access to these items are a health care and human right,” said Meng. “But too many still struggle to obtain them, and it’s shameful and unacceptable that they remain out of reach for over half the population."
Meng's legislation is multifaceted and addresses period poverty in many forms, imcluding:
- Giving states the option to use federal grant funds to provide students with free menstrual products in schools – these grants already provide funding for health and wellness efforts;
- Incentivizing colleges and universities to implement pilot programs that provide free menstrual products to students;
- Ensuring that incarcerated individuals and detainees in federal (including immigration detention centers), state, and local facilitates have access to free menstrual products, including requiring guidance on distribution;
- Allowing homeless assistance providers to use grant funds that cover shelter necessities (such as blankets and toothbrushes) to also use that money to purchase menstrual products;
- Requiring Medicaid to cover the cost of menstrual products;
- Directing large employers (with 100 or more employees) to provide free menstrual products for their employees in the workplace;
- Requiring all public federal buildings, including buildings in the U.S. Capitol complex, to provide free menstrual products in restrooms.
Right now, menstrual equity and period poverty is left to each state to handle, meaning that access and affordability of period products varies widely across the country. Period poverty affects everyone, and federal legislation will have an enormous impact on menstruators everywhere.
"Menstrual equity is key to gender equity and reproductive health.,” said Emily Martin, Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women's Law Center. “The Menstrual Equity for All Act recognizes that menstruation is neither shameful nor rare. It would help ensure that having a period is no longer a source of economic vulnerability."
Meng's Menstrual Equity for All Act has 84 cosponsors so far. Read a copy of the act here.