The Public Health Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a proposed bill proposed that would make women’s menstrual products free at certain locations.
The bill would guarantee access to menstrual products at York Correctional Institution, in elementary, middle and highschools, at shelters, and at colleges and universities across the state.
Rep. Kate Farrar, D-West Hartford, said the legislation would require that the products were provided at no cost. The bill also allows for these facilities to receive donations of products or state funding to support their needs. The state funding would be an upfront cost for dispensers and an ongoing budget of $1.4 million to support the need for products.
The goal of the bill would require that elementary, middle and high schools have a dispenser in every bathroom, while public colleges and universities campuses are only required to have one. For shelters and prisons, the legislation specifies one location and to request access without stigma.
Farrar said that the health risks for women who don’t have access to an adequate supply of these products can include urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and even cervical cancer.
“Ensuring that they have access to this can resolve the physical, long-term effects but also that stress they might be feeling without the product,” she said.
Farrar said a similar bill was proposed in 2020, but did not advance due to the legislative session being cut short.
The current bill received support from numerous people.
“This bill would help end period poverty by making menstrual products more available,” Kathleen Flaherty, executive director of CT Legal Rights Project, said in a written testimony.
“It is far past time that we recognize that menstrual products are a basic need for people who menstruate – something half the population does each month for about forty years” Flaherty said.
Rep. Christine Conley said that another key component of this bill is that individuals can receive them independently. She said students in middle or high school, for example, have to either pay for one or request them from their school nurse. Both the cost and the embarrassment of asking an adult for a product can be a barrier to access.
“This legislation would ensure that no student would be prevented from attending school due to a lack of affordable hygiene products,” she said.
In terms of providing products to schools, Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public Superintendents, said that they support the bill as long as the state provides adequate funding.
“Without alternative funding or ways for districts to obtain menstrual products free of charge, it would be difficult for a number of our school districts to furnish all of their female restrooms with free menstrual products.” she said in a written testimony.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health also testified in favor of the bill.
“New York City’s groundbreaking menstrual equity legislation, passed in 2016, sets a gold standard for policy changes around the country, and DPH supports the motivation and impact of such legislation.” officials said in a written testimony.
The department also said they will be conducting independent research in order to find ways to avoid stigma associated with the need for menstrual products.