SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – One in four women across the country struggle to purchase menstrual products due to lack of income. Gov. JB Pritzker signed three bills into law Thursday to improve access to those critical hygiene products. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of in addressing health equity for a mother, a daughter, or a sister,”
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – One in four women across the country struggle to purchase menstrual products due to lack of income. Gov. JB Pritzker signed three bills into law Thursday to improve access to those critical hygiene products.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of in addressing health equity for a mother, a daughter, or a sister,” Pritzker said. “Once again, Illinois is demonstrating what it means to stand up for women’s health by protecting their dignity.”
All public universities and community colleges in Illinois are now required to provide feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms. Rep. Katie Stuart notes people always expect to see soap, toilet paper, napkins, or seat covers in public spaces. She stressed menstrual products should be no different.
“We probably don’t really ever think about it until we’re in a situation where we really need something like that and it’s just not there,” Stuart said. “This legislation puts menstrual hygiene products in that same category which is exactly where they belong.”
Another law requires homeless shelters to provide women and girls with free sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners. Sponsors say no one should ever feel the pain or embarrassment of not having clean and safe hygiene products.
Human rights, dignity, and public health
“Meeting the hygiene needs of women and girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health,” said Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis).
Feminine hygiene products aren’t covered under SNAP or WIC. The federal waiver also isn’t available for states yet. Pritzker and sponsors hope Congress can create the waiver to ease the financial burden on thousands of women.
The final bill signed into law requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to apply for the waiver that could later allow SNAP and WIC recipients to use those benefits for menstrual products and diapers.
“Fighting against problems like period poverty is a privilege,” said Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D-Aurora). “I’m so happy to be here and to be able to move forward with this bill. I hope once again the federal government can also take action in making sure that SNAP and WIC can include these products.”
The law requiring free hygiene products on college campuses takes effect immediately. Meanwhile, the new laws addressing menstrual products for the homeless and SNAP or WIC recipients go into effect on January 1.
“I cannot personally imagine the indignity of having to use some other item as a makeshift sanitary product,” said Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Swansea). “But I believe people who have already been deprived of so much should not have to suffer that, too. These are essential products for health, safety, and cleanliness, and we need to treat them as such when we supply our homeless shelters.”