The Illinois Senate approves payments for offering menstrual hygiene merchandise
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed two bills Tuesday recommending state universities and colleges and homeless shelters provide free menstrual hygiene products to users in their bathrooms.
Both bill sponsors cited “period poverty” or the problem of not being able to afford products such as pads, tampons or liners for treating menstrual bleeding as the motivation for their legislation.
“Women are re-using old sanitary napkins. They use cardboard, they use newspapers, they use bundled handkerchiefs to meet the basic need they have that is causing infection and emotional problems, ”said Senator Christopher Belt, D-Swansea, during the floor debate.
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Belt is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 310, which requires all accommodations providing temporary housing assistance to women and youth to provide items such as sanitary towels, tampons, and panty liners.
The bill does not include enforcement or penalties for homeless shelters that do not offer menstrual hygiene products, as the requirement to request is dependent on the availability of funds in the general budget of the shelter.
“It boils down to people’s humanity and dignity and having access to their basic levels of hygiene,” Belt said.
From a technical point of view, the bill does not require homeless shelters to provide these products, but rather prioritizes the effort. The bill was passed by the Senate 56-1 and is awaiting signature by the governor to become law.
A measure requiring universities and colleges to offer the same products as in the homeless shelter law was discussed in the Senate over the cost.
House Bill 641, sponsored by Senator Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, requires public universities and community colleges to make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge in restrooms in buildings owned or rented by higher education institutions.
“Menstrual hygiene products are essential to a healthy and healthy student – access to these products on campus is a necessity, not a privilege,” Villa said in a press release. “Period poverty should not limit a woman’s right to adequate education.”
State Senator Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, questioned the estimated cost of this proposal, but Villa said she did not provide an estimate.
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Tracy said in the Senate debate that Southern Illinois University voluntarily offered menstrual products in their bathrooms and later recalled the program for “rampant theft.”
“My only concern is hygiene and providing the necessary items … but the experience at Southern Illinois University has shown that more was taken than necessary,” said Tracy.
“There are programs that we put out there that are meant to be used, but we also create a culture that invites you to take whatever you can, whoever pays for it,” she added. “I think it is very important that you ask who is paying for it?”
HB 641 would require the board of directors of every public university and community college district in the state to decide on funding to meet billing requirements for free menstrual hygiene products in their facilities.
The law was passed by the Senate with 42-13 votes.
A Senate committee changed HB 641 to change “Feminine Hygiene Products” to “Menstrual Hygiene Products”. Therefore, the bill will be sent back to the House for the amendment’s approval before it can be forwarded to the governor for signature.
Grace Barbic: [email protected]