(The Hill) – Republicans in the Idaho House blocked a bill that would provide free menstrual products to public school students, calling it “liberal” and “woke.” The bill would have funded free menstrual product dispensers for sixth through 12th grade students in girls’ bathrooms at a cost of about $300,000 per year, or $3.50 per student, after a one-time installation cost of about $435,000.
“It’s not a lot of money in the state’s budget,” bill sponsor state Rep. Rod Furniss (R) said in committee Thursday. “Today is a step to preserve womanhood, to give it a chance to start right, to not be embarrassed or feel alienated or ashamed, or to feel like they need to stay home from school due to period poverty.” Idaho is projected to have a $1.4 billion revenue surplus this year.
Advocates for the bill say that the state already funds toilet paper, soap and other hygiene products for students. The Idaho Period Project estimated that three in four East Idaho students missed class due to lack of access to menstrual products. The bill failed on a tie vote on Monday, with state Rep. Heather Scott (R) calling the proposal a “very liberal policy.” “Why are our schools obsessed with the private parts of our children?” Scott said.
Another Republican legislator called the language in the bill — “period poverty” and “menstrual equity” — “woke terms.” Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., have passed legislation mandating that free menstrual products be provided to students. Five more have set up grant systems for schools to provide the products, according to the nonprofit Alliance for Period Supplies.
One in four students who menstruate had trouble accessing period supplies in 2021, a survey from the nonprofit found. The same survey found that four in five students either missed class time due to lack of access to menstrual products or knew someone who did.