Idaho bill to provide free period products in schools fails

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bill that would have provided free menstrual products in girls bathrooms in Idaho public schools failed in the state House, with at least one Republican lawmaker calling the proposal “very liberal.”

The measure advanced earlier this month from the House Education Committee with a “do pass” recommendation. It failed on the House floor 35-35 last week.

It was expected to cost $435,000 to install product dispensers and about $300,000 each year to stock them to provide menstrual products for female students in grades six through 12, according to the bill's fiscal note. State budget analysts have forecast a $1.4 billion tax revenue surplus at the end of the fiscal year, the Idaho Statesman reported.

“It’s not a lot of money in the state’s budget,” Rep. Rod Furniss, a Republican, told the committee in speaking about the bill. “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.”

The state currently pays for toilet paper, paper towels and soap in public school bathrooms, Furniss said. But in schools that don’t offer period products for lack of funding, students without their own products must ask teachers, administrators and friends for help, according to bill supporters.

There are 59 Republicans in the House and 11 Democrats. Thirty-five Republicans opposed the bill, including Republican Rep. Heather Scott, who called it a “very liberal policy.”

“Why are our schools obsessed with the private parts of our children?” she said.

Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt said phrases such as “period poverty” and “menstrual equity,” which were used to describe inaccessibility to menstrual products, were “woke terms.”

According to the Alliance for Period Supplies advocacy group, as of last year, 15 states and the District of Columbia had passed legislation requiring schools to offer free menstrual products to students.

In Florida, Republican-backed legislation would ban discussion of menstrual cycles and other human sexuality topics in elementary grades. That bill is pending in the Florida House.