California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a bill signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons and other items.
California’s latest effort builds on a 2017 law requiring low-income schools in disadvantaged areas to provide students with free menstrual products.
It expands the law to include grades 6 to 12, community colleges and the California State University and University of California systems, starting in the 2022-23 school year. It encourages private schools and colleges to follow suit.
“Our biology doesn’t always send an advanced warning when we’re about to start menstruating, which often means we need to stop whatever we’re doing and deal with a period,” Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia said of her legislation. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathrooms, so should menstrual products.”
Several other states were considering or have required free menstrual products in public schools, according to advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth. Purdue University in Indiana decided last year to offer free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms.
“California joins a growing number of states who lead the way in demonstrating that menstrual equity is a matter of human rights,” the advocacy group PERIOD said in statement. “No student should ever lose learning time due to their periods, period.”
California also previously repealed a tax on menstrual products that cost women an estimated aggregate $20 million a year.
Women’s Voices for the Earth says more than half the states still tax menstrual products as a “luxury” item. Worldwide, many countries have eliminated such taxes, including Britain, Australia, Canada and India.