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The Associated Press
Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Illinois struck a blow for human rights last week, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed bills requiring col- leges and universities and many homeless shelters, to stock menstrual products.
Long underrecognized as a human rights issue, these new state laws try to break down barriers to feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary napkins for those who can’t afford them.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, an Edwardsville Democrat, laid it out in terms everyone can understand.
“We all agree, collectively, that soap, toilet paper, napkins, tissues, seat covers and all those other things are provided for us in public spaces,” she said. “In fact, 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.
“This legislation puts menstrual hygiene products in that same category, which is exactly where they belong,” she said.
We couldn’t have said it better. Each month, countless women lack the basic products many of us take for granted. These bills do not make access universal, but getting free tampons and pads on college campuses is going to be a big deal to students who are struggling to get an education with little ready cash available to them. No young woman should have to sacrifice hygiene and personal health by coming up with poor substitutes to handle a menstrual cycle.
House Bill 641 requires state universities and community colleges to stock feminine hygiene products in any restroom in a college building that serves students. That bill passed the House 74-37 and the Senate 42-13, each with mostly Democratic but some Republican support. It takes effect immediately.
House Bill 310 requires homeless shelters that serve women and youth to make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge, although the rule “is subject to the homeless shelter’s general budget.”
House Bill 155 requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver to the federal government to allow the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP funds) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to buy diapers and menstrual hygiene products.
Currently, the federal government does not offer such a waiver. But according to state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, a Chicago Democrat, advocates are formally asking the federal government to take this step.
This bill had unanimous, bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
The availability of menstrual products regardless of the ability to pay is catching on — finally — as a basic human right around the globe. We are grateful to Illinoisans who are waging this fight for the women of this state.