Bill for Schools to Provide Free Menstrual Products Being Voted On

House Bill 3294, which would require every public education institution to provide free menstrual products for its students, is currently under consideration in Oregon legislation. Along with that, additional amendments for the inclusion of transgender people are being considered in regard to where the products will be dispensed.  

One of the sponsors of this bill, Representative Ricardo Ruiz, said in a public testimony that the bill used inclusive language whenever possible. One of the ways of doing this was referring to products as menstrual products instead of “feminine” products. 

“Not all females menstruate, and not all who menstruate are females,” Ruiz said. 

Ruiz also said that legislators requested state school funds in order to provide students these menstrual products. 

The Research Behind the Bill 

One study found that nationally, one in five teenagers either could not or struggled to purchase these products, and four out of five students missed class or knew someone who missed class because of a lack of access to menstrual products.  

Sallie Mering, a provider for Oregon State University Student Health Services, told the Barometer in an email that she is excited about this bill and the growing awareness of period poverty. Mering also said that asking for these products could be uncomfortable or traumatic.  

“When supplies are limited, menstruators may use products for longer than they are intended or use materials not meant to be placed inside the vagina,” Mering told the Barometer. “These practices are associated with toxic shock syndrome, which is rare, but can be fatal. Some people without access to supplies may choose to miss work or school rather than risk the — unfortunate — universal shame associated with bleeding through clothing.” 

There are concerns about the sustainability of the chemical and plastic materials in menstrual products and their packaging. And, if lower cost alternatives are used, that could result in more materials headed to the landfill. 

At the OSU Campus, student organization Period At OSU is striving to combat environmental damage from traditional pads and tampons. 

“[We] recently hosted an event to make reusable pads that will be donated towards OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences personal care baskets,” Theresa Nguyen, president of Period At OSU, said to the Barometer. “Reusable pads are made from cloth and collect menstrual fluid. They work like disposable pads, but the wings for cloth pads are fastened with press-studs, buttons, or velcro instead of adhesive. You can toss the cloth pads in the washer or hand-wash them.” 

House Bill 3294 sponsors are: Oregon Representative Ricardo Ruiz, Representative Dacia Grayber, Representative Anna Williams, Representative Julie Fahey, Representative Lisa Reynolds, Representative Andrea Salinas, Representative Sheri Shouten and Senator Chris Gorsek.   

By: Hannah Ramsey