Panelists Answer Unasked Questions from She Votes Policy: Power to the Period! Event

She Votes Policy: Power to the Period Panelists: Rep LaToya Greenwood, Rep Barbara Hernandez, Rep Katie Stuart, Dr. Janelle Howell, and Ashley Novoa, co-founder Chicago Period Project.

On March 31, 2021, She Votes Illinois hosted She Votes Policy: Power to the Period!, a panel discussion covering period poverty to advance menstrual equity through legislation in Illinois. We asked panelists nuanced questions on an array of issues that affect period poverty including economics, healthcare, intersectionality, accessibility, and more. Watch the virtual event here.

There were several questions we did not have time to ask during the panel discussion and we are pleased to share written responses from the panelists with you here.

QUESTION 1: What additional burdens do LGBTQ, people of color, and religious communities face when experiencing menstruation?

  • Rep Barbara Hernandez: People still go through stigmas and access to products.

QUESTION 2: Trans men may menstruate. Inconsistent access to hormones can cause unexpected bleeding and trans men and non binary people may also deal with bathroom issues if they have nowhere discreet to throw away period products in a bathroom. Source: Teen Vogue How can schools and places of business make the burden of menstruating easier on trans men or non-binary people?

  • Rep Katie Stuart: This is exactly why my legislation states that products be available in ALL restrooms on college campuses. It is important to respect and support all menstruators. You have brought to my attention the issue of receptacles, and making sure they are available in all stalls. That is leading me to further legislation to make sure we match access to such in ALL restrooms.

QUESTION 3: According to ABC News’ analysis of pharmacy locations across the country, there are 150 counties where there is no pharmacy, and nearly 4.8 million people live in a county where there’s only one pharmacy for every 10,000 residents or more. How do pharmacy deserts contribute to or exacerbate issues of access to period products?

  • Dr. Janelle Howell: This makes it extremely difficult for low income people to access period products. Usually low income communities have more difficult forms of transportation and if they can’t easily access a pharmacy, then they are unable to bleed in a sanitary way which additionally increases mental distress/anxiety.

QUESTION 4: via Zoom by Ramona: I stepped away for a minute, so I apologize if this was addressed — are the House bills inclusive of menstruators who don’t identify as women? Are they advocating for period products to be available in all restrooms? Can this be asked if it wasn’t covered? Thank you!

  • Rep Katie Stuart: Ramona, thank you for attending. The bills related to products on college campuses and in middle and high schools specifically state ALL restrooms. It is for the exact reason that you stated it was important to put this in place. In addition, I believe that the way to normalize menstruation and end period shame is to be open and frank about the biological process, and that includes having non-menstruators have the products out and visible in locations, and for people to speak the words in public spaces.

QUESTION 5: FACEBOOK Live by Faith Miller: There used to be vending machines in the bathrooms for menstrual products, is that still being recommended? What are parts of the bills on the table to provide the products for free and prevent anyone from stealing or hoarding the products?

  • Rep Katie Stuart: My legislation (HB641) allows flexibility for the college campuses to determine how to meet the requirement of providing free products. They can use vending machines that do not require payment for use if they believe that is how to best support all menstruators. Additionally, they are able to form corporate partnerships to provide the materials on campus, and that may involve single use dispensers of some type. Currently, in one of the main classroom buildings on the SIU Edwardsville campus, persons using the women’s restrooms are currently greeted with a sign that states products are available in the restroom on the first floor — which isn’t too helpful when you are on the fourth floor! This is what my legislation seeks to correct.

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Join us in our fight to advance menstrual equity in Illinois

End Period Poverty

She Votes Illinois is committed to educating and creating awareness about menstrual equity while also garnering support for legislation that helps to end period poverty in Illinois.

Visit our Menstrual Equity Toolkit today — complete with resources and calls to action to pass legislation to advance menstrual equity in Illinois.

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She Votes Illinois

She Votes Illinois focuses on making sure the political system in Illinois reflects the voices of all women and femmes in Illinois.