California lawmakers are poised to send Gov. Jerry Brown a bill requiring public schools to stock bathrooms with free tampons and pads.
Assembly Bill 10, introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, cleared the the state Senate with a 37-0 vote on Wednesday. It would require schools that educate any combination of students from sixth through 12th grades to stock half of campus restrooms with free menstrual products. The bill only applies to schools in which 40 percent of the students meet the federal poverty threshold.
Garcia, the self-anointed “tampon queen,” has been on a mission to force the state to recognize menstrual products as a medical necessity and eliminate the taboo behind periods.
“To me this bill is not just about a medical necessity, but about access to education,” Garcia said. “A lot of young women tell us that they miss school because they cannot afford these products.”
The bill will allow young women to have the same access to education as young men, she said.
Garcia’s office cited a similar project in New York City that found school attendance increased by more than 2 percent after pads and tampons became free in 25 middle and high schools. Garcia also believes the cost of tampons may force girls to use a single tampon longer than doctors recommend, which can cause toxic shock syndrome and other health issues.
Garcia introduced another bill to establish a tax exemption for feminine hygiene products last year, which was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. She revived the measure this year and it was tabled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The Senate amended AB 10, which means it must return to the Assembly floor for a final vote before it reaches the governor’s desk. The Assembly passed the measure the first time around with a 68-6 vote in May. The bill originally required community colleges, public universities and shelters to provide free pads and tampons as well.
The Senate Appropriations Committee estimates that the measure will cost the state millions to tens of millions of dollars.
Garcia said she’s concerned the governor may exercise his veto power again to block AB 10 from becoming law. She commended Brown for working to close education gaps in California, which she said her bill also addresses.
“So, I’m trying to stay positive,” Garcia said.