Illinois Senate passes bill requiring colleges to offer free menstrual products to students

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Free feminine hygiene products could soon be popping up in public universities and community colleges in Illinois.

The Senate passed House Bill 641 which would require institutions to supply students with free menstrual products in all campus bathrooms. Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) argued that similar programs have been implemented in the past but were cancelled after students took more products than needed.

“We also generate a culture that invites taking whatever you can, whoever pays for it,” said Tracy. “I think it’s very important that you ask the question sometimes, who pays for this? We have lost that dialogue. We just think we can print money, tax more and it all works out.”

However, Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) explained if she ever needs a menstrual product, she only takes one. She said she would expect college students to do the same.

“Period poverty is real,” said Villa. “And this bill will be helpful to our students.”

Republicans financial concerns

Still, Republicans were hesitant to support the bill saying universities and colleges in Illinois already struggle with funding.

“Yes, I’m a woman, I’ve been through all that,” said Tracy. “I know it’s necessary, as necessary as toilet paper. But at some point, we have to ask where this money is coming from.”

Villa said small businesses in her district already offer feminine hygiene products free of cost to customers. She stressed how important it is to offer these products to Illinois residents who cannot afford them.

“They’re there, free for the taking,” said Villa. “They’re obviously not afraid of theft of these products. I believe that college students would be able to go in and make that determination.”

Despite the back and forth debate from both parties, the bill passed out of the Senate on a partisan 42-13 vote. The proposal will now be sent back to the House for approval before it can go to the Governor’s desk.

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