Utah will be the first state to offer free period products in all state executive branch buildings, after an announcement by Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox at a press conference on March 2.
According to The Policy Project, a Utah organization that advocates for solution-based policy, the order means that an estimated 1,698 bathrooms will now have free period products. Of those bathrooms, nearly a thousand are used by the general public when visiting state buildings.
The Policy Project and its initiative The Period Project have been campaigning for widespread access to period products for the past several years. The organization has recently seen several milestones in making them more available in Utah.
This announcement comes nearly a year after HB162 was passed unanimously by the Utah legislature. The bill requires all public and charter schools within the state to provide menstrual products free of charge in all girls’ and unisex bathrooms on school grounds.
In December 2022, The Policy Project announced that beginning in 2023, all major universities in the state of Utah would offer free, accessible period products in campus bathrooms.
Brooke Gledhill Wood, Director of Legal & Programs at The Policy Project, said this development was not due to a legislative order but the initiative of the individual schools.
Gledhill Wood said that after BYU told The Policy Project they would commit to start providing free period products, she and her colleagues talked to the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). USHE then checked in with the administrations of Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, Southern Utah University, Utah State University, Utah Tech University, Snow College, Weber State University and the University of Utah and confirmed that each would start providing free period products on campus.
“Much of that work was done by student groups and student advocates on each campus,” Gledhill Wood said. “It was really cool to see so many different students pull together around this issue over the past few years and really make this change at an individual level within each university.”
BYU first began providing free period products in a few bathrooms in the Wilkinson Student Center in 2021. BYU Student Advisory Council Vice President Brooke Layton said the change was spurred by a Student Advisory Council project that considered ways to ensure that women are equitably represented on campus.
“It’s great to see this initiative that came out of the Student Advisory Council, something that students advocated for, to see it come to fruition and see us be united with other universities in Utah in providing these free products on campus to women,” she said.
Layton said she personally is grateful for the products and has seen their positive effect across campus.
“It’s a godsend and it can be a little tender mercy for so many,” she said.
BYU Media Relations Manager Todd Hollingshead said the university has been installing the new product dispensers since the beginning of the Winter 2023 semester. He said they hope to install close to 500 units, and they’re about 80 percent of the way to that goal.
He added that BYU Building Care employees have been regularly keeping them stocked just like any other bathroom supplies such as toilet paper or paper towels. However, some of the new machines have been running out of product at higher rates, with signs suggesting that supply-chain issues have created a backlog of orders.
Layton expressed her gratitude for BYU Building Care for installing the machines and doing their best to keep them stocked.
“It’s quite the task to tackle [hundreds] of bathrooms, to go through and make sure they are all staffed with these dispensaries and that we’re keeping all the products stocked,” she said.
Gledhill Wood said the universities’ commitment to providing free period products, and Gov. Cox’s order to do the same in state buildings, is a huge move towards making sure that women, girls and people who menstruate are able to fully participate in our communities.
“Having bathrooms be more inclusive to the biological needs of women is something that’s been overlooked for years, but I think we’re finally ready as a society to start fixing [that],” she said. “It’s exciting to see the momentum and how much change has happened in just a few years here in Utah.”