‘As necessary as toilet paper’: Utah lawmakers pass bill putting free period products in K-12 schools

HB162 cleared the Legislature Thursday and is waiting to be signed.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Heidi Maxfield and her daughter Ivy, 10, show their support during a November rally at the Capitol sponsored by The Period Project, to urge Utah legislators to provide free menstrual products in the restrooms of every public school.

Students will likely soon be able to use free period products in all public K-12 schools and charters in Utah, which supporters say will help keep girls learning in the classroom with dignity.

HB162 received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, with 37 legislators signing on as co-sponsors with Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, and Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, who ran the bill.

“We need to make sure that no child is ever embarrassed, no child ever doesn’t come to school because they don’t have period products,” Millner told her colleagues Feb. 10 on the Senate floor.

The bill has not yet been signed by Gov. Spencer Cox after clearing the Legislature Thursday. A spokesperson for his office told The Salt Lake Tribune in an email, “The governor is still reviewing the bill.” But Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson backed HB162 before the session began.

The momentum began with a rally at the Capitol in November, where women and girls shared their personal struggles to overcome issues of access, poverty, privacy and stigma. One Salt Lake City student talked about how her parents can’t afford pads or tampons, causing her to miss school when she has to sit on a pile of towels at home each month. Another said she’s had to use cotton balls — which are less expensive than period products, but leave her worried about leaks while in class at Granite School District.

“Access to period products is as necessary as toilet paper,” Emily McCormick, an advocate who is leading the effort called The Period Project, previously said. Yet one in five girls can’t afford period products, according to her organization.

Starting July 1, tampons, pads and other period products will be available for free in female and unisex bathrooms in Utah’s elementary, middle and high schools.

The effort is made possible by funding from a public-private partnership. The dispensers are being donated by longtime philanthropist Gail Miller’s foundation and the Andrus Family Foundation. And the Legislature designated money to pay for the period products until school districts can absorb the cost into their budgets by July 2025.

When a student at Roots Charter High School in West Valley City encouraged the Senate Education Committee to support HB162 in February, she introduced herself by saying, “My name is Halle Peralta, and I am a woman. And I have a period.”

Peralta told lawmakers about a time when her period started while she was at work. “I had to go through the embarrassment of using the toilet paper method that most women are aware of,” she said.

Peralta said she ran over to her school, located nearby, because she knew there were period products available there.

“It feels good to know that your school supports you,” she said.

Megan Reid, who also attends Roots Charter High School, agreed with Peralta, saying that having tampons and pads available for free will help students “not be ashamed” while menstruating.

“This bill is a long time overdue,” Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, said on the House floor on Feb. 1.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.