Domb pushes for menstruation equity at legislative hearing

  • Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, recently testified in favor of a bill that would require public higher education institutions to provide menstrual products to students at no cost. FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 6/6/2023 9:39:02 AM

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill heard testimony recently on a bill that would require public higher education institutions to provide menstrual products to students at no cost.

“The commonwealth needs to … start treating menstrual products like we do toilet paper on our public higher ed. campuses,” Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, testified May 30 before the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

The hearing was chaired by Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

Domb was advocating along with University of Massachusetts Amherst student Amanda Lookner for H.1255, a bill she said was inspired by a student organization, Period@UMass.

The organization successfully petitioned for menstrual products to be made available on campus by reallocating student fees. Period@UMass is a branch of the larger organization, Period, which advocates for access to menstrual products across the country.

Lookner, a rising senior majoring in public health and geography, is the president of Period@UMass. She told the committee that the responsibility of providing accessible, basic hygiene care for students “should not fall on a student-run club.”

She referenced a survey that Period@UMass had conducted which found that 94% of the respondents had at one point been in need of a menstrual product on campus, but had lacked immediate access to one.

Domb, too, said it should be the responsibility of the commonwealth, not the students at individual universities, to provide accessible products to menstruating individuals. She said students at higher education institutions have reported missing classes due to a lack of access to period products.

Additionally, she argued that period poverty plagues higher education institutions when students have to decide between purchasing books and menstruation products.

She contended that menstrual products represent a “basic need” that the commonwealth of Massachusetts “needs to take responsibility for” by providing access to menstrual products just as it would any other basic hygiene product.

Asked by the committee whether these products would be available in all bathrooms, she responded that the products would be “accessible to all users.”

Lookner informed the committee that Period@UMass had implemented free period products in eight on-campus bathrooms over the past two years. She said one survey had found that 73% of menstruators had reported using one of these products.

She urged the committee to approve the bill, saying it would represent a huge step toward menstrual equality, and allow students to focus on their education rather than worrying about access to basic hygiene.

Following Domb’s testimony, Comerford acknowledged that the proposed legislation represented “a real issue,” and said she was familiar with separate testimonies concerning the same situation.

The bill is also sponsored by Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, among other lawmakers.

Domb concluded by thanking the students at UMass Amherst for the collaborative work they had done.

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