Ensuring Menstrual Product Access in Montgomery County: Bill 42-23 Explained
Montgomery County has taken a significant step towards menstrual equity by introducing Bill 42-23, Health and Sanitation – Menstrual Products in Public Restrooms – Required. This bill, spearheaded by Councilmember Jawando, aims to make menstrual products readily available in public restrooms at no cost to users.
Background and Context
In 2021, Maryland's General Assembly updated the Education Article in the state's legal code. This change mandated that public schools install dispensers for menstrual hygiene products in specific student restrooms. Maryland also made sure that incarcerated individuals have access to free menstrual supplies. Additionally, Maryland exempted items like sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual sponges, menstrual cups, and similar feminine hygiene products from sales tax. This aligns with a national trend where many states, including Maryland, have passed laws requiring schools and prisons to provide menstrual products and removing sales taxes on these products. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reported on this trend.
The ACLU's report highlights a significant issue: Nearly one in five American teenagers live in poverty, and for them, the absence of menstrual products and support can hinder their education. Those who are homeless face health risks, as they resort to using tampons and pads for longer than recommended or making do with makeshift materials like paper towels or newspapers. In the case of incarcerated individuals and those involved in the criminal justice system, they often find themselves in a degrading and dehumanizing situation where they have to beg or negotiate with staff for basic hygiene necessities, which exacerbates a power imbalance.
Effect of Bill 42-23
Though this bill does not address incarcerated individuals, if enacted, Bill 42-23 would require public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, healthcare facilities, entertainment venues, public conveyances, and various public spaces to provide menstrual products in specific public restrooms at no cost. It also suggests making general amendments to existing laws related to providing essential health and sanitary products.
Public accommodation in this bill is defined an establishment such as:
Restaurants, soda fountains, and other eating or drinking places, and all places where food is sold for consumption either on or off the premises;
Inns, hotels, and motels, whether serving temporary or permanent patrons;
Retail stores and service establishments;
Hospitals, health care institutions, domiciliary care homes, nursing homes, personal care homes, and clinics;
Motion picture, stage, and other theaters and music, concert, or meeting halls;
Circuses, exhibitions, skating rinks, sports arenas and fields, amusement or recreation parks, picnic grounds, fairs, bowling alleys, golf courses, gymnasiums, shooting galleries, billiard and pool rooms, and swimming pools;
Public conveyances, such as automobiles, buses, taxicabs, trolleys, trains, limousines, boats, airplanes, and bicycles;
Utilities, such as water and sewer service, electricity, telephone, and cable television;
Streets, roads, sidewalks, other public rights-of-way, parking lots or garages, marinas, airports, and hangars; and
Places of public assembly and entertainment of every kind.
Enforcement of the proposal would involve considering non-compliance as a Class A violation, which would be enforceable by the Department of Health and Human Services.
If you want to voice any concerns or support this legislation, Bill 42-23 is scheduled for a public hearing on December 5. For detailed inquiries or more information about the bill, you can contact the office of Councilmember Jawando, the lead sponsor. Keep an eye on the Montgomery County Council’s schedule for upcoming sessions discussing the bill and the accompanying resolution.
Bill 42-23 represents an important milestone in promoting menstrual equity in Montgomery County. It reflects a growing recognition of menstrual products as fundamental necessities rather than luxury items. By requiring their availability in public restrooms, the bill seeks to guarantee that all individuals, regardless of their economic circumstances, have access to these essential products.
Text of Bill 42-23, Health and Sanitation – Menstrual Products in Public Restrooms – Required