By Sami Sharfin
On July 27, 2021, Oregon joined Illinois in the list of states requiring schools to provide free menstrual products through the passage of House Bill 3294, also known as the Menstrual Dignity Act.
Signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, the Menstrual Dignity Act states that ‘all public institutions of education’ must provide free pads and tampons in school bathrooms starting this fall. With the growing awareness of period poverty, the goal is to help students who may be unable to access or afford such products and ensure that successful learning isn’t prevented from that essential need. The bill states that schools must have menstrual products available in a minimum of two restrooms for this upcoming school year. By July 2022, the rule will expand to require all public education institution restrooms to install at least one dispenser in each bathroom. In addition, schools will receive state funding based on the school’s student body size and the number of menstrual product dispensers needing to be installed.
Oregon Representative and sponsor of HB 3294 Ricardo Ruiz emphasized the importance of inclusive language in the bill during a public hearing on March 16, 2021. This includes the push for all bathrooms—gender-inclusive and male—to have dispensers as well. Representative Ruiz stated that this bill signifies the much-needed change in how we view the public school system “from school-ready students, to student-ready institutions.”
Oregon State University’s Cascades campus started providing Aunt Flow dispensers before this bill was introduced, making the university the first higher-ed institution in Oregon to offer menstrual products to students free of charge.
This bill isn’t the first piece of legislation to address issues that menstruators face in Oregon. In 2019, lawmakers put into effect a bill requiring adult correctional facilities to make pads and tampons freely available. Yet, this law didn’t apply to youth correctional settings. A similar bill to the Menstrual Dignity Act was proposed in 2019 but ultimately failed to pass, making this law a huge win for many student and youth advocacy groups who championed for it in years before.
Sami Sharfin is a freelance writer, content creator and current senior at Indiana University-Bloomington.