EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a group of bills aimed at removing financial barriers to feminine hygiene products for women and girls.
“I’ve made it a top priority to ensure that our state is at the forefront of protecting women’s rights and women’s health – all the more important as attacks against reproductive rights surge across the nation,” Pritzker said. “Thanks to the three bills I’ll sign today, we’re reducing the burden of period poverty and making those very difficult personal choices a little bit rarer in Illinois. Because there’s nothing to be ashamed of in addressing health equity for a mother, a daughter, or a sister. Once again, Illinois is demonstrating what it means to stand up for women’s health by protecting their dignity.”
House Bill 641
House Bill 641 requires all public universities and community colleges in Illinois to provide free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms. College and university boards of trustees will decide how much funding is needed to meet the new requirement.
“Period poverty is a public health crisis, and these laws will enhance the everyday lives of people struggling to afford necessary menstrual hygiene products,” said State Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). “Access and affordability of period products will no longer be a barrier to a student’s proper education or a person’s well-being in Illinois.”
“This legislation is an important step in normalizing menstruation. Approximately half our population experiences menstruation throughout a significant portion of their lifetimes,” said State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville). “This is a normal function of our biology and needs to be seen and treated as such. Menstrual hygiene products should be in restrooms in our public spaces, just like any other hygiene products, and I want to thank the institutions of higher education across the state for coming to the table to work with me to make this happen on their campuses.”
Local public universities and colleges expressed their support for the legislation.
“That’s something that is a natural part of life and shouldn’t be something that has to be paid for every time. So I think providing that is going to be a good good deal,” said Eric Jome, director of media relations at Illinois State University.
Jome said ISU previously worked with student groups on a pilot program, so they are more than ready for the fall.
“So we have a little bit of experience with that and kind of how that was working, so we’ll certainly be expanding on that in the coming weeks and developing the plan or expanding that throughout restrooms on campus,” he said.
Steve Fast, director of public information at Heartland Community College, said equitable access to these products is important to educational success.
House Bill 155
House Bill 155 requires the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. That waiver would pave the way for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to use those programs for diapers and menstrual hygiene products.
“Across the country, one in four women regularly struggle to purchase menstrual products due to lack of income,” said State Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D-Aurora). “Today, Illinois is taking steps to help low-income women in our state overcome that challenge. Fighting against problems like period poverty is a privilege, and I’m so happy to be able to move forward on this issue.”
SNAP and WIC currently do not cover feminine hygiene products, and the federal waiver is not available to states.
That bill is effective Jan. 1, 2022.
House Bill 310
House Bill 310, otherwise known as the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act, requires all homeless shelters granting temporary housing assistance to women and youth to provide products such as sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners free of charge if their budget allows.
“People who have been deprived of so much should not be forced to use other items as makeshift sanitary products,” said State Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Swansea). “I cannot personally imagine the indignity women in homeless shelters feel. Today, however, is a step toward ensuring no one else has to feel the pain or embarrassment of not having clean, safe feminine hygiene products.”
House Bill 310 is effective Jan. 1, 2022.
“These bills are about providing a lasting and sustainable solution to an increasingly prevalent problem by establishing access to fundamental supports for vulnerable individuals desperately in need,” said State Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis). “I remain committed to serving as a strong advocate for at-risk women and girls, particularly those whose voices are not being heard.”
“There are barriers that many people have that can prevent them from pursuing their educational goals… So when we can remove some of those barriers from a student’s life and make it just a little bit easier for that student to not have those additional stresses…. that helps them move along their pathway to reach their educational goals,” he said.
The bill is effective immediately.
The full press conference can be viewed below: