Washington, D.C. – Today, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed Councilmember Brooke Pinto’s Period Equity Righting an Injustice of District Residents Act of 2022 (“the Period Act”) to provide free period products in all District government buildings such as libraries, recreation centers, and buildings that serve the District’s most historically underserved residents, including shelters and congregate care facilities making the District the national leader on period equity. The Period Act was co-introduced by Councilmembers Janeese Lewis George, Trayon White, Sr., Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Christina Henderson, Vincent C. Gray, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, Brianne K. Nadeau, Mary M. Cheh, and Kenyan R. McDuffie. The bill builds on legislation authored by Councilmember Pinto and currently being implemented to provide period products and expand menstrual education in all District of Columbia schools.
“Accessing period products should be as ubiquitous as accessing toilet paper in public facilities,” said Councilmember Pinto. “Our public places support the everyday lives of the residents of DC, and by taking this action, we take a fundamental step toward gender equality. By passing the Period Act, the Council demonstrates to all those who live in and visit the nation’s capital that access to period products is a fundamental human right.”
During the hearing, dozens of witnesses testified in support of the Period Act. In response to testimony given during the hearing, Councilmember Pinto amended the bill to require that tampons and sanitary pads provided must be made from certified organic cotton and must not contain substances hazardous to user health.
In all, the “PERIOD Act” will:
“Women, transgender men, and nonbinary people who menstruate need access to free menstrual products – a health necessity each month. We have seen the associated costs and burdens of accessing these products fall disproportionately on people of color and lower income families,” said Councilmember Pinto. “By requiring that period products be available in government buildings, shelters, and congregate care facilities, the District can help to ensure the health and dignity of our residents. My hope is that the provision of basic health products will inspire other jurisdictions and the private sector to do the same.”
The DC Council Office on Racial Equity has noted, “The lack of timely and readily available access to free period products can create a web of negative outcomes that affect mental and physical health; and social and economic wellbeing many of which, disproportionately affect women of color and women of color with low incomes.” In analyzing the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021,” the DC Council Office of Racial Equity suggested considering ways to ensure District residents experiencing housing instability or live in shelters have access to free period products. The PERIOD Act aims to address this.
The inability to access period products can create serious health consequences. Menstruating people who lack access to these products are more likely to reuse products or use products for too long, which puts those individuals at higher risk for infection and other conditions that require medical care. This bill would reduce these risks for District residents and visitors by providing free period products in public buildings and facilities serving vulnerable populations.
Earlier this year, the DC Council unanimously passed the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021” introduced by Councilmember Pinto. This legislation requires the provision of free period products in District public, public charter, and private schools and post-secondary institutions. This legislation also requires that the District of Columbia’s State Office of the Superintendent of Schools (OSSE) develop and implement comprehensive menstrual health education standards for our students. Councilmember Pinto secured funding for this legislation in the FY22 Budget and it is currently being implemented in our schools.
“This bill is another step towards overcoming the stigma surrounding menstruation and treating access to period products similarly to toilet paper – a product everyone agrees is a basic necessity and can be readily found in public buildings and places,” said Councilmember Pinto.