Illinois laws aim to increase access to menstrual health products


The package of laws includes a series of caveats that could slow down the process.

GALESBURG, Illinois – A set of laws in Illinois brings the state closer to better access to menstrual health products. Illinois HB155 was adopted in August 2021 and went into effect early in the new year.

By law, the Illinois Department of Social Services is required to seek a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service that would allow Illinois residents to ‘use BREAK (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (women, infants and children) to buy menstrual health products and diapers.

It’s a step in the right direction according to Lee Ann Porter. She is the founder and executive director of Loving Bottoms Diaper Bank in Galesburg, Illinois.

“It’s always been a need and I think the pandemic has brought that to light,” Porter said.

Lee Ann helps provide around 35,000 diapers a month and more than 400 menstrual products to those in need in nine surrounding counties.

“Any movement that helps us get to where people can access only basic hygiene products is good,” Porter said.

She says the nonprofit has a fairly good supply of diapers and night liners, but they still need pads and tampons.

“We still need tampons. That’s our lowest amount,” Porter said. “Tampons and regular pads are always in high demand for us, so they go out as fast as they come in.”

The state has yet to obtain the waiver from the federal government to allow Illinoisans to use SNAP and WIC benefits on health items.

“Your menstrual supplies, your diapers, your toilet paper, a lot of people think they’re covered. They think they’re available with food stamps, they think they’re available with WIC or other things,” Porter said. “There are a lot of people who just don’t know that these aren’t covered.”

In addition to HB155, another law came into effect with the new year. HB310 created the feminine hygiene products for the homeless law. This bill also passed in August 2021 and requires all homeless shelters in Illinois to provide free tampons, pads, and panty liners. The caveat with this bill being that it is if the shelter budget permits.

Porter says she’s willing and waiting to see if more shelters reach out to Loving Bottoms to help fill their bathrooms with supplies for women.

“Are they going to reach out to places like us if their budget doesn’t allow them to work with other agencies to make sure they have them available?” Porter said. “What does it look like for them, because so many nonprofits are already in high demand.”

The third bill passed in August 2021 entered into force immediately. This law requires all public universities and community colleges to provide free tampons, pads, and panty liners in bathrooms.

Porter worries about the regulation of these laws. She has no intention of going anywhere until the need for access to feminine hygiene products and diapers is completely eradicated.

“The goal is for everyone to have access. And I can step back from the nonprofit world and that would be perfect,” Porter said.


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