SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senate lawmakers voted unanimously Thursday on a bill that will provide free period products in every Utah school through a private-public partnership.
"This bill is incredibly important," Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner, R-Ogden, said on the Senate floor. "I hate to say this, we wouldn’t envision charging people for toilet paper in our schools, right? These products are just as important to our young women and this is an opportunity to make that available in a very safe and appropriate manner to every child."
House Bill 162 creates a private-public partnership to ensure free access to menstruation products in Utah schools.
The bill has had sizable support on Capitol Hill to address an issue long-ignored. Girls have missed school because they haven't had access to menstruation products. The Policy Project, a group that has advocated for it, rounded up donors and persuaded lawmakers to fund the initiative.
“I’ve never seen a bill go through that quickly and I hope they realize things don’t normally happen like that,” said Gail Miller with the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation.
Miller attended a donation event hosted by SisterGoods at a ‘Thirst’ location in Millcreek. SisterGoods is a campaign focused on fundraising for pads and tampons through the Utah Food Bank.
‘Thirst’ customers stopped by Thursday night to drop off pads and tampons. A portion of the night’s proceeds also went toward purchasing menstrual products for women in need.
“We think about food insecurity and we know that kids don’t have enough to eat,” said Kristin Andras, founder of SisterGoods. “That also means there’s period poverty or period product insecurity.”
Miller presented a check of fifty-thousand dollars on behalf of her daughter, Karen Miller Williams.
“This is something that will open doors and this will help women, young girls become women of confidence,” she said.
She said she also intends to cover the costs to put machines in school machines.
According to SisterGoods, one in seven Utah teens can’t afford sanitary items. Nearly fifty percent of women in poverty have to choose between a meal and period items regularly.
“[The Utah Food Bank] said this is the biggest need we’ve ever had in the state of Utah for any product we’ve ever tried to place,” said Andras.
Supporters and organizers part of Utah’s Period Project hope the state can become a leader in addressing this nationwide problem and squash the stigma of talking about periods.
“It’s a normal thing. All of us women have periods. And it’s a thing that we are helping here in Utah,” said Katie Bunnell, president of the Live Your Dream foundation.
The bill has a final vote in the Senate. It has been tabled to ensure there is adequate funding in the overall budget process.