bathroom steel napkin and tampon dispensing machine

A new law will require lower-income schools in California to provide menstrual products to girls at no charge. According to L.A. Weekly reports, the feminine hygiene products are required to be available in half the bathrooms on campus within the next year.

According to the original bill, AB-10:
A public school maintaining any combination of classes from grade 6 to grade 12, inclusive, that meets a 40 percent pupil poverty threshold specified in federal law to stock 50 percent of the school’s restrooms with feminine hygiene products, as defined.
The bill would prohibit a public school from charging for any menstrual products, including feminine hygiene products, provided to pupils. By imposing additional duties on public schools, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

Much of the Los Angeles Unified School District, where as many as 80 percent of students have come from households at or below the poverty line, would have to adhere to the law.

A policy advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Jessica Bartholow, called the new law "landmark legislation for California."

Providing the products free to lower-income girls encourages them to come to school, feel normal and participate in extracurricular activities. That, in turn, increases their chances of graduating, going to college and landing good jobs, Barlow said in the L.A. Weekly article.

The idea that tampons and pads are considered nonessentials, on par with candy and manicures, and taxed accordingly is an idea that has led to much debate over what critics claim is a discriminatory tax against women.

In 2016, New York became the 11th state to eliminate taxes on menstrual products. In July of that year, New York passed legislation similar to California's new law to provide free menstrual products in all public schools, shelters and correctional facilities.
Beginning this year, Illinois will introduce a state law requiring all schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in restrooms.

Colleges and universities are also weighing in. According to an article in Newsweek, Rhode Island's Brown University was one of the first higher-education institutions to implement a free tampon program. At North Carolina State University, members of the student government are preparing to roll out a similar initiative.

To read the full L.A. Weekly article, click here.