Making period products accessible seems simple. Why not at USC?

‘If you’re worried about where you’re going to be able to get menstrual products… you’re not going to be focused.’

While free period products will be available at public schools and institutions by the next school year, there’s a gap USC students are working to fill: Private institutions, including the university, are not legally obligated to comply.

“The Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021,” or AB 367, was introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia in hopes of catalyzing other states to take similar action. Taxes on menstrual products cost Californians more than $20 million annually, according to Garcia in a statement. Gov. Gavin Newsom approved the legislation in October, which requires statewide access.

Some clubs on campus have addressed menstrual equity by providing free products around USC’s campus. Junior Praesana Danner founded the USC chapter of PERIOD with a goal to raise awareness about menstrual insecurity on campus. The group has hosted a number of period drives to disseminate products and resources around campus — and to push the need for the administration’s involvement.

“Students should have a voice in their health and their reproductive systems and the type of health information they are receiving. And I think that we don’t have any student voices in that,” said Danner in an interview with Annenberg Media.

PERIOD works to end period poverty and stigma through service, education and advocacy. Period poverty refers to the “inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education,” according to the American Medical Women’s Association.

Danner knows firsthand about needing access to products on campus. She lived on campus during her freshman year and noticed that there weren’t any products provided in dorms.

“Everything is outsourced,” she said. “There’s a lot of empty tampon boxes around campus that could just easily be filled up.”

Women in Youth Support Each other (WYSE) is another national organization and USC’s chapter remains the largest. The organization provides mentorship curriculum about reproductive health and other topics to middle school girls.

Senior Margot May, who’s on USC WYSE’s executive board as a school director, agrees that period products are essential to learning and necessary for any school campus.

“If you’re worried about where you’re going to be able to get menstrual products or if you’re just sitting there having your period in class, you’re not going to be focused,” May said.

USC could do more to protect reproductive health on campus, according to May. Providing free menstrual products in buildings is one avenue May believes could help.

In the absence of campuswide action, student-led organizations are taking the lead. Last year, USG and PERIOD USC collaborated on a pilot program that made menstrual products available in five buildings on campus. Vice President of USG Lucy Warren recalled finding the boxes emptied and continually refilled.

“I think it’s very evident that the need is there,” said Warren in an interview with Annenberg Media. “We’re hoping to continue pushing for expansion of the pilot program so that ideally it’s something that exists in all bathrooms, not just women’s restrooms, but in every gender neutral bathroom.”

Warren remains hopeful that the California legislation led by Garcia will expedite change on campus and plans to continue working with PERIOD USC in the future.

The goals of Garcia’s bill, which are echoed by these students, argue that providing free period products in schools will reduce the anxiety of searching for a product and eliminate distractions to learning.

“It is time we recognize and respond to the biology of half the population by prioritizing free access to menstrual products, and eliminating all barriers to them,” Garcia said.