June 23, 2016 — The New York City Council on Tuesday voted 49-0 to approve the country's first legislation (1128-A) providing no-cost feminine hygiene products in the restrooms of public schools, homeless shelters and correctional facilities, the Wall Street Journal reports (Gay, Wall Street Journal, 6/21).
Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) administration has voiced support for the legislation. According to AP/U.S. News & World Report, the bill's approval follows a vote last month by New York state lawmakers to eliminate sales tax on feminine hygiene products (Peltz, AP/U.S. News & World Report, 6/21).
According to AP/U.S. News, many schools, homeless shelters and jails in the city already offer feminine hygiene products at no cost, but they are not always immediately accessible. For example, students may be required to visit a nurse's office to obtain the products, while women in homeless shelters and prisons have to request the supplies before accessing them. Women's health advocates have expressed concerns that such on-request services are inadequate.
The bill, proposed by Council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D), aims to remove unfair financial barriers to sanitary products.
The measure would provide tampons and sanitary pads in restrooms that serve roughly 300,000 students and would ensure 23,000 women in homeless shelters have access to feminine hygiene products. Overall, shelters would receive about two million tampons and 3.5 million pads annually. In addition, the bill would add the force of law to sanitary supply standards in jails.
After dispensers are put in place, the legislation is projected to cost about $2.5 million per year.
Ferreras-Copeland said feminine hygiene products are "as necessary as toilet paper" and should be as accessible (AP/U.S. News & World Report, 6/21). She called the bill a matter of "menstrual equity," stating, "Periods have been stigmatized for far too long" (Wall Street Journal, 6/21).
Supporters say the bill would make feminine hygiene products more easily accessible because they would be dispensed in bathrooms rather than at nurses' offices.
Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees homeless shelters, also praised the legislation, noting that it "expands on and enshrines into law" existing policies (AP/U.S. News & World Report, 6/21).