The Menstrual Dignity Act, which requires all Oregon public schools to provide free tampons and sanitary pads in every bathroom, starting this school year, was passed by the Oregon state legislature on July 27.

Phase One of House Bill 3294 requires that in school buildings, menstrual product dispensers must have been installed by Sep. 1, 2021. Phase Two begins on Sep. 1, 2022 when all women’s, men’s, and gender-neutral bathrooms are required to install dispensers. Students of all gender identities will be able to have equal access. “I know that a lot of times it’s really hard to ask for stuff, because even if it’s as simple as, ‘Oh I need a pad,’ you’re going to have to explain, especially if you don’t necessarily look like a cisgender girl or woman, why you need one, and then you run into the fact that you’re going to have to explain your entire identity, especially if you’re non-binary and non-binary trans,” said Yukpa Wright (12), who identifies as non-binary. “So I just think having the ability to not really expose yourself in that way and have it be so cut and dry is really important.”

The purpose of this act is to combat period poverty, the financial struggle many people face when it comes to purchasing menstrual products. This is aimed to ensure that no student will have to miss out on school or extracurricular activities due to lack of access to adequate period products. “I think this is really good, because personally I’ve had times when it’s been iffy whether I’m able to purchase stuff for myself, and so having access at school feels less stressful, because I know that even if I have to worry about that at home, I won’t have to worry about that at school,” said Wright. 

Some worry about the misuse of the products in the bathrooms, such as that which has occurred in previous years with some of the provided pads and tampons being vandalized. “I think we should take forward action in educating people on how to use menstrual products and really enforce what they’re used for and why they’re needed and why it’s so important to have these things in bathrooms,” said Bella Walker (11), co-president of the Period Club at Franklin.. “Honestly if I feel like if more people knew the importance of having free period products it’ll cut down those instances of misuse greatly.” The Menstrual Dignity Act ensures that even if instances of misuse occur, the school will still be required to provide students with free menstrual products.

Franklin High School has installed dispensers into at least two of the women’s restrooms in school. Previous to The Menstrual Dignity Act passing, there were places where students could access free menstrual hygiene products, for example, the clinic and the SUN room. However, these locations aren’t always widely known to students. Having available period products be a given in every school bathroom, students will no longer have to worry about how or where to obtain these necessary items. “Because periods and menstruation are something that half of the population goes through, and the fact that it’s taken this long for this to happen in schools is frankly sad, but I’m so happy because there are still other states, there are other places around the world where this is not a possibility yet,” said Walker. “I’m proud that change is happening and that we are working to end period poverty in Oregon schools.”  

Menstrual product dispenser in Franklin High school girls bathroom. The Menstrual Dignity Act makes these dispensers required in at least two bathrooms in every Oregon public school. 
Photo credit: Oliver River-Satalich

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