hygiene products 080521This week, three pieces of legislation were signed making feminine hygiene products more accessible for women and girls in Illinois. House Bill 641, House Bill 155, and House Bill 310 all remove financial barriers that have previously prevented individuals from purchasing hygiene products. The legislation builds on steps already taken in Illinois to expand reproductive equity and protect women’s access to healthcare. Read below to learn more about the new laws.

 

House Bill 641

No college student should have their education interrupted due to the inability to access pads, tampons, or other feminine hygiene products. To support women pursuing higher education, HB 641 requires all public universities and community colleges across the state to provide free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms.

The Board of Trustees at colleges and universities will determine the funding needed to meet the newly created requirement.

“Period poverty is a public health crisis, and these laws will enhance the everyday lives of people struggling to afford necessary menstrual hygiene products,” said State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). “Access and affordability of period products will no longer be a barrier to a student’s proper education or a person’s well-being in Illinois.”

“This legislation is an important step in normalizing menstruation. Approximately half our population experiences menstruation throughout a significant portion of their lifetimes,” said State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville). “This is a normal function of our biology and needs to be seen and treated as such. Menstrual hygiene products should be in restrooms in our public spaces, just like any other hygiene products, and I want to thank the institutions of higher education across the state for coming to the table to work with me to make this happen on their campuses.”

HB 641 is effective immediately.

House Bill 155

Illinois women living at or below the poverty line often face the difficult decision of choosing between paying for food or housing or buying diapers or feminine hygiene products. HB 155 requires the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, that would pave the way for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to use the two programs for diapers and menstrual hygiene products.

At this time, the federal waiver is not available to states, and feminine hygiene products are not currently allowable for SNAP or WIC. The administration will continue to advocate for the federal government to create a waiver to help ease the financial burden for thousands of women across the state.

“Across the country, 1 in 4 women regularly struggle to purchase menstrual products due to lack of income,” said State Representative Barbara Hernandez (D-Aurora). “Today, Illinois is taking steps to help low-income women in our state overcome that challenge. Fighting against problems like period poverty is a privilege, and I’m so happy to be able to move forward on this issue."

HB 155 is effective January 1, 2022.

House Bill 310

To protect the health and safety of the state’s most vulnerable residents, HB 310, the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act, requires all homeless shelters granting temporary housing assistance to women and youth to provide products such as sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners free of charge, if their budget allows.

“People who have been deprived of so much should not be forced to use other items as makeshift sanitary products,” said State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea). “I cannot personally imagine the indignity women in homeless shelters feel. Today, however, is a step toward ensuring no one else has to feel the pain or embarrassment of not having clean, safe feminine hygiene products.”

“These bills are about providing a lasting and sustainable solution to an increasingly prevalent problem by establishing access to fundamental supports for vulnerable individuals desperately in need,” said State Representative LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis). “I remain committed to serving as a strong advocate for at-risk women and girls, particularly those whose voices are not being heard.”

HB 310 is effective January 1, 2022.

 

The legislation furthers ongoing work to make Illinois a national leader in ensuring women’s healthcare is a right, not a privilege. In 2019 the Reproductive Health Act became law, guaranteeing that women in Illinois have the right to choose. Additionally, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program was expanded, which provides free screenings and diagnostic services to uninsured and underinsured women and also expanded insurance coverage for mammograms and other breast cancer screenings. Earlier this year, legislation was signed granting Illinoisans access to birth control over the counter.

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