East Multnomah County freshman legislator Ricki Ruiz has introduced a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would require public schools and colleges to provide feminine hygiene products free to students.
The bill would make menstrual products available in all middle and high schools, community colleges, public universities and public charter schools at zero cost to the attending students, Ruiz said.
House Bill 3294, The Menstrual Dignity Act, was introduced by Ruiz and six other chief sponsors and 10 regular sponsors.
This is one of the first bills that 26-year-old Ruiz (D-Gresham) is shepherding through the legislature. Ruiz also sits on the Reynolds School District school board.
"The idea came from students all across the state," Ruiz said. "Many of them have expressed their concerns of schools not providing menstrual products. Similar to toilet paper and hand soap, menstrual products are a basic need and it's only fair we provide the products in our school restrooms."
The bill would require tampons and pads be available in every female-used restroom in schools.
Oregon is one of more than a dozen states considering bills to require public schools to provide free feminine hygiene products. California, Illinois, New Hampshire and New York already have similar laws on the books.
The topic of access to feminine hygiene products has gained notice worldwide. A documentary short film called "Period. End of Sentence" won an Academy Award in 2018. It features a movement among Indian women to make the items more available and reduce any shame or embarrassment around the topic.
In Oregon, 13% of children live below the poverty level, and one in five teens cannot afford feminine hygiene products, a fact sheet on the bill said. As a result, 25% of menstruators have missed class due to a lack of products.
"This bill is for all our students who have missed school due to lack of menstrual product availability," said Ruiz. "Our students deserve to learn with dignity, and our failure to take action has negatively impacted our students."
"As legislators, we must change our view of our educational systems from school-ready students, to student-ready institutions. I'm excited to be partnering with legislators, partners and most importantly, our students — who are at the center of our work," Ruiz explained in a statement.
Co-sponsor and Portland pediatrician Rep. Lisa Reynolds (D-Southwest Portland) said "as a pediatrician, I understand the importance of de-stigmatizing an adolescent's menstrual experience. One important step is making menstrual products free and readily available to improve ease of access and normalize the process."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.