On Thursday, October 26th 2023, S.1381 and H.534: An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters and Public School (the ‘I AM Bill’), was passed UNANIMOUSLY in the Massachusetts Senate. The I AM Bill is championed by lead sponsors Senator Jehlen, Representative Livingstone and Representative Barber, and will ensure access to free menstrual products to all menstruating individuals in incarcerated facilities, homeless shelters and public schools. The bill also contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.
“We live in a world where 50% of people menstruate, yet today in Massachusetts, we offer almost 0% support for most of them,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “If we truly believe in equality for women and menstruating people in our Commonwealth, then making period products accessible to our young people and those in vulnerable situations is the right thing to do, and something we must do.”
Following the Senate vote, Senate President Karen Spilka and Mass NOW hosted a press conference in the Senate Reading Room, with menstrual justice champions. The lineup of speakers included:
- Senate President Karen Spilka
- Senator Patricia Jehlen, I AM Bill lead sponsor
- Senator Julian Cyr, Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee
- Sasha Goodfriend, Executive Director of Mass NOW
- Shaitia Spruell, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
- Nora Bent, Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators
- Emma Staff, Policy Director for the Boston Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement
- Kenzie Blackwell, Free Period
- Ally Crays, Northeastern Law School
The livestream of this press conference can be found here.
Period poverty is not a new issue, but it is new to talk about period products as a public good – and today’s vote signals that the tide is turning in Massachusetts.
“This is a true grassroots movement starting with girls talking about their experiences of missing valuable class time or feeling embarrassed to access products during the school day. These conversations have already started to change the culture and have motivated us to expand this across the state” said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville).
Just like today’s unanimous vote, there is a growing, bipartisan effort we are seeing across the country. We are so excited to celebrate this win today, but we know we’re still only halfway to the finish line and in fact Massachusetts is falling behind in supporting menstruators. Twenty three states, and the District of Columbia, have passed legislation to provide period products in schools and twenty four states have passed legislation to provide products in correctional facilities. Just last year both New York and Connecticut passed legislation to provide products in shelters.
“An inaccessibility of period products speaks to the longstanding and persistent misogyny in our society, a bias that intersects with inequalities in housing, education, socioeconomics, and beyond. By ensuring better access to these products, we support further access to essential health needs regardless of our situation in life.” said Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.
Thank you to the activists in the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition who are smashing the stigma around periods and raising your voices with legislators to pass the I AM bill this session. It’s working, and we’re so grateful to have so many champions in the State House making it happen!
Now, we begin calling our Representatives to them to champion the bill and bring it to a vote in the House of Representatives next!