An Idaho bill aimed at providing students with free feminine hygiene products in school failed on Monday after Republicans slammed the prospect as “woke” and “liberal.”
The one-page House Bill 313, introduced on March 13, would have required that public and public charter schools provide students with free tampons, sanitary napkins and other menstrual products.
Dissenting Republicans decried the bill as “woke” and overly generous.
“This bill is a very liberal policy, and it’s really turning Idaho into a bigger nanny state than ever,” said state Rep. Heather Scott, according to The Daily Beast. “It’s embarrassing not only because of the topic but because of the actual policy itself. So you don’t have to be a woman to understand the absurdity of this policy. And you don’t have to feel that you’re insensitive to not address this.”
The cost of the bill would have been $735,400 — $435,000 allocated toward product dispensers and the remainder for the actual menstrual products, according to the fiscal note.
The cost of the products was calculated at about $3.50 per student for 85,825 female students.
“It’s not a lot of money in the state’s budget,” Republican state Rep. Rod Furniss said on March 16 to the House Education Committee before the bill failed, according to the Idaho Statesman. “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.”
Still, the House vote was split down the middle, with 35 in favor and 35 against. Ten of the nay votes came from conservative women on the floor.
“What’s gonna be next?” Scott asked. “We can’t help but sweat. So are the schools now going to be providing deodorant for these kids?”
Another conservative lawmaker, state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, said the phrases “period poverty” and “menstrual equity” used to discuss the bill were “woke terms.”
“Period poverty” refers to the idea that some people, particularly low-income students and students of color, can have trouble accessing the menstrual products they need because they can’t afford them. Factors like sales taxes can make it even harder to obtain these necessary products, the American Civil Liberties Union notes.
“Menstrual equity,” meanwhile, refers to the goal of making sure that anyone who needs access to menstrual products can access them.
Reproductive rights are being denied, restricted and reconsidered across the country. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision recognizing the right to have an abortion. More recently, Wyoming restricted abortion pill access, and Florida is considering banning period-related discussions in schools until sixth grade.
Twenty-three percent of U.S. students have limited access to menstrual products, according to a 2021 survey by Thinx and PERIOD. Yet, as of last October, just 15 states and Washington, D.C., had passed legislation securing students’ free access to menstrual products in schools, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.
“It’s so shocking,” Avrey Hendrix, the founder of the Idaho Period Project, told The Daily Beast of female lawmakers denying free menstrual products to others, “because they know what it’s like to go into the bathroom and not have a tampon.”