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Alabama bill would provide free menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms

Alabama bill would provide free menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms
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A committee in the Alabama legislature advanced a bill on Tuesday that aims to provide free menstrual hygiene products in school bathrooms.

The Alabama House Ways and Means Education Committee unanimously approved the bill, HB88, which calls for local boards of education to provide free sanitary napkins and tampons in women's restrooms for grades five through 12.

The legislation goes to the House floor for a full vote this week.

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The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Rolanda Hollis (D), spoke at the hearing with advocates working to end "period poverty." Local organizations typically donate supplies to schools, while nurses and counselors often use their own money to buy supplies for students. 

“It's hard to explain to men what women go through and it may be a small product to you, but it means a lot to us," Hollis told local outlet Alabama News Network

Hollis was joined at the hearing by Brooke Bennett, an eighth-grader who founded an organization with her sister called Women in Training to give free sanitary products and hygiene education to girls, women and nonbinary people.

“Period poverty is an issue that affects girls in every nation, every state and every city; every person who has a working uterus needs menstrual products every single month,” Bennett said during the hearing, according to AL.com. 

For the 2020-2021 school year, there are about 218,000 female students in grades five through 12 at 1,293 schools in Alabama, according to a fiscal note on the bill.

It is unclear how much Hollis’s effort would cost the state and funding is a potential obstacle for representatives working with the state’s limited budget, the outlet noted.

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Several states have introduced similar proposals, with the Maine's Judiciary Committee unanimously advancing one bill this week. In Illinois, lawmakers are pushing to expand access to free menstrual products to both girls and boys bathrooms

A 2018 poll from period supplies company Always found that nearly 20 percent of girls in the U.S. have missed school or left early because they did not have access to pads or tampons.

Procter & Gamble, the corporation which manufactures Always and other feminine care brands like Tampax, announced this week that it would be raising the prices on feminine care products in September due to the global supply chains disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.