Councilmember Brooke Pinto announces passage of Bill to Provide Free Period Products in all Public, Private and Post-Secondary Institutions, and to Expand Menstrual Education
Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, January 4th at the first legislative meeting of 2022, the DC Council unanimously passed the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021” introduced by Councilmember Brooke Pinto. This legislation requires the provision of free period products in District public, public charter, 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 helped secure funding for this legislation in the FY22 Budget so that it can be implemented this fiscal year.
“Young women, girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming students 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 young women of color and low-income families,” said Councilmember Pinto. Addressing period poverty is a critical component to achieving gender and racial equality and is an important component of pandemic recovery. The Council Office on Racial Equity noted, “Providing free access to period products is likely to help Black and Brown residents in the District of Columbia attending secondary and post-secondary schools. 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.” Councilmember Pinto further noted, “We must be committed to providing a more equitable learning environment for District students and addressing period equity is key to this mission.”
Period poverty is often discussed as a challenge for women in developing countries -- approximately 500 million women and girls lack access to menstrual hygiene -- but it also impacts millions of women, girls, and transgender men in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 American girls have missed school because of a lack of access to period products. While there is a lack of research on the impacts of period poverty on students in Washington, DC, experts have found that period poverty is closely aligned with food insecurity, which would indicate that roughly 10.6% percent of residents experience period poverty. Data also shows that expanding students’ access to period products reduces school absences.
During a public hearing on the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2020”, many students testified that menstrual education is lacking in DC schools. Councilmember Pinto looked into OSSE's health education standards further and found that menstrual education is extremely limited and only begins in grade 9, after most girls have already started their period. Councilmember Pinto has worked with students from DC high schools and Universities who have been critical partners in this effort and she is grateful for the youth partnership and involvement on this bill.
The “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2021” will:
“The lack of accessible period products adversely impacts women, girls, and transgender men’s ability to receive an education, care for their reproductive health, and participate more broadly in society,” said Councilmember Pinto. “This bill is a long-overdue step towards correcting these injustices. One day, I hope we can overcome the stigma surrounding menstruation and period products will be treated the same as toilet paper – a product everyone agrees is a basic necessity. I am thrilled that the Council has passed this legislation and look forward to working to expand access even further to District residents.”
This legislation was co-introduced by all of Councilmember Pinto’s female colleagues on the Council (Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Christina Henderson, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Janeese Lewis George) and Vincent C. Gray, and is a revised and expanded version of Bill 23-0887, the “Expanding Student Access to Period Products Act of 2020”, which Councilmember Pinto co-introduced last Council period with former Councilmember David Grosso.