Mass NOW leaders have taken their first step toward a new legislative achievement with new I AM. menstrual access bill (H.1959/S.1274), which now has support from nearly 70 co-sponsors across the Massachusetts house and senate. The bill, co-written by Mass NOW and the offices of its lead sponsors Representative Jay Livingstone, Representative Christine Barber & Senator Pat Jehlen, would require all Massachusetts public schools, prisons, and shelters to provide free, easily accessible menstrual products. The bill also contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.
“By providing access to free, quality menstrual products to public school students, incarcerated people who menstruate and homeless people who menstruate, we are taking on issues of public health, economic inequality, educational equity, and gender equity all at once. It’s one of the best examples of intersectional lawmaking and feminist policy,” says Mass NOW president Sasha Goodfriend. “One of Mass NOW’s founding organizing principles is ‘the personal is political.’ The I AM bill brings what has always been considered a ‘personal issue’ to the political forefront and aims to break down the taboo around the everyday health needs of people who menstruate.” Goodfriend continued.
If passed, the I AM measure would be the first statewide law of its kind in the country, making Massachusetts one of the leaders in the growing menstrual equity movement.
Lead House sponsor, Representative Christine Barber says, “I am pleased to sponsor this legislation to improve equitable access to menstrual products in public schools, prisons, and homeless shelters, which will reduce the social stigma and prohibitive cost of necessary health products…I am looking forward to working to move the bill forward this legislative session.”
According to statistics people who get their periods spend over 2,000 days of their lives menstruating (that’s equivalent to about 6 years) and will use nearly 10,000 disposable menstrual products, which carry a cost of almost $2,500 over the course of their lives. PERIOD.org founder, Harvard student, and author of the new book Period Power says Nadya Okamoto says, “Mass NOW’s I AM bill builds upon the menstrual movement nationwide. Menstrual equity debunks the idea that menstrual health is non-essential, menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege.”
Chris Bobel, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at UMass Boston and scholar of the menstrual activism says, “This bill recognizes that menstruation matters. Improving access to materials is just the beginning in a cultural shift to destigmatize a biological process shared by many but understood and by far too few.”
In the days ahead Mass NOW will be working to build an intersectional coalition to promote this measure and will continue to grow the public conversation around menstrual equity through free consciousness raisings, period talks, online story-banking, and a Period Pop Up art show April 6th. To get involved with the coalition, share a personal story about menstruation, and learn more about these upcoming events visit massnow.org/iam.