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From our hearts and our heads


LIFEIn January, New York State governor Andrew Cuomo made a big announcement: all public schools in the state would have access to free pads and tampons for girls in grades 6 – 12. On a nation scale, it’s a pretty progressive move: New York is one of the only states in country to enact such a law, behind only California and Illinois.

But it’s also frustrating that this hasn’t happened sooner, or still isn’t happening in more states. Not having access to period products is one of the leading causes of school absence among adolescent girls. It’s more than just an issue of comfort and hygiene; it’s an issue of educational access.

Governor Cuomo’s official website laid out the facts in two sobering paragraphs, part of his larger “2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity” plan, which includes road maps for boosting STEM education, sex education, and awareness around healthy relationships:

Many young women in New York lack access to feminine hygiene products, which are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but hardly eveas available or free. In New York, 42 percent of children live in low income families. At $7 to $10 per package, a month's supply of something as simple as a box of pads or tampons can be one expense too many for struggling families. The United Nations has even linked menstrual hygiene access to human rights.

This year, Governor Cuomo will propose legislation requiring school districts to provide free feminine hygiene products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12. This important step will make New York State a leader in addressing this issue of inequality and stigma, ensuring that no girl's learning is hindered by lack of access to the products her biology demands.

This is an important stance for a governor to take, but there are also a few caveats: Cuomo likens the need for period products in bathrooms to that of soap and toilet, which is a fair comparison, but some public schools in the state are already struggling to provide those basics. It follows that they would also have a hard time providing the pads and tampons they ought to. The other caveat is that by only requiring pads and tampons to be placed in girls’ bathrooms, this law will likely exclude transgender teens in the process.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s still so much more work to do when it comes to equitable access to vital period products.