Lawmakers and Advocates Thank Governor Shapiro for Proposed Funding of Period Products in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools

Nearly one in four U.S. students cannot afford period products, threatening their ability to receive the education they deserve.
Democratic State Senator Senator Maria Collett speaks at a press conference urging lawmakers to make funding available in the next PA budget to make period products free and available at all Pennsylvania schools. Photo courtesy of @PaSenateDems.

Democratic legislative leaders from Pennsylvania’s House and Senate, along with the state’s first lady and Harrisburg-based Girl Scout Troop 14009, gathered on Tuesday to thank Governor Josh Shapiro for including $3 million in his proposed budget plan for period products in public schools.

“We are gathered here this morning to advocate for funding for period products in public schools as part of this year’s state budget,” said Senator Judy Schwank (SD-11). “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Josh Shapiro, we have before us a proposal that would invest $3 million to make period products freely available in every public school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

“Finally, somebody gets it,” Schwank said after learning of Shapiro’s plan to commit funds to the endeavor. “With the help of our incredible coalition, which includes the Women’s Health Caucus, the Black Maternal Health Caucus, and the Women’s Commission, I know we’re going to get this done.”

Schwank said that the way in which menstruation has been stereotyped should be ancient history and that it’s neither a secret nor taboo.

“In 2019, when I joined the legislature and I joined legislators and activists to rally for menstrual equity, some of my colleagues balked at and were scandalized by words like tampon and period being spoken in the Capitol’s main rotunda,” said Senator Maria Collett (SD-12). “For far too long, periods and the products we need to manage them have been stigmatized, shamed, and brushed aside.”

Collett also said that too many women and girls miss school or work because they don’t have the products they need. Unsanitary options, such as socks, toilet paper or newspaper are used in place of products designed specifically for menstruation. “It’s undeniable that menstrual equity is a public health issue,” she said.

Also in attendance at the press event was Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Aroosh and Acting Secretary of Health Debra L. Bogen.

Arkoosh said that five of our neighboring states: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio require period products to be available in schools. “It’s long past time that Pennsylvania joined this group and made this essential product available in the Commonwealth,” she said, and thanked Governor Shapiro for including funding for this project in his budget proposal.

The Mitzvah Circle, a Norristown-based not-for-profit that distributed more than 830,000 period products to community members in 2023 and the Spot Period Club in Philadelphia, the nation’s first and only uterine wellness and period product hub, were both acknowledged for their work to conquer period poverty.

“We are so incredibly grateful to Governor Shapiro and the First Lady for all of their work in helping to make this a reality,” said State Senator Amanda Cappelletti (SD-17). “It’s a historic first step forward for those of us who menstruate. Our bodily needs are often ignored by society, and people who get their period have to continue on in their daily routines as if nothing is happening or they face stigma and potential consequences.”

“We have the power to eliminate these challenges for our students here in Pennsylvania and ease the stress that threatens their ability to get their education to the fullest extent,” she said.

Two pieces of legislation that would provide feminine hygiene products, HB-850 and HB-851, have been introduced by Representative Darisha Parker (D-198) and are advancing through the legislature.

House Bill 850, passed by the House with a vote of 131 to 72, currently awaits consideration in the Senate. If enacted, the legislation would enable programs like SNAP and WIC to request federal funding for period products.

Republican State Representative Craig Staats (R-145) was the sole member of the Bucks County GOP to vote against the bill.

House Bill 851, still pending in the House, will allow Pennsylvania funds to provide for free products in public schools.

“I’m asking individuals in here to be aware, to be enlightened, and understand. When you see that I’m boldly walking across from my office, from the House to the Senate, and I am carrying a box of tampons, understand why,” said Parker. “I’m not doing it for social media likes. I’m not doing it for your tweet. I am doing what you sent me here to do… fight, and I’m always going to fight for women.”

Pennsylvania Senate Democrats estimate that nearly one in four U.S. students cannot afford period products, threatening their ability to receive the education they deserve.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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