Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) has again filed legislation that would ensure girls in Florida’s public schools have access to menstrual products at no cost. SB 242, entitled “Learning with Dignity,” would require both sanitary napkins/pads and tampons to be provided in all female restrooms in Florida’s K-12 public schools.
“One in five girls have either left school early or missed school entirely because they did not have access to menstrual products,” says Senator Book, citing a recent survey. “Girls pay a price when these products aren’t free – and providing them will go a long way toward equity in education.”
Women typically spend around $150 – $300 annually on menstrual products, which can cause a financial strain for low-income students and their families.
Twenty three percent of Florida’s children are living below the poverty level, and 66 percent of public school children qualify for free or reduced price school lunch.
In 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act into law, mandating menstrual products be provided at no cost to Florida’s female inmates.
“A period should end a sentence, it shouldn’t end education,” says Ashley Eubanks of the Beauty Initiative, a South Florida-based nonprofit that has provided more than 400,000 hygiene necessities to women and girls in need. “Senator Book’s Learning with Dignity bill will ensure hygiene is not a luxury for girls in Florida’s public schools.”
“One in five girls have either left school early or missed school entirely because they did not have access to menstrual products.”
Lauren Book, FL State Senator
Senator Book has also filed legislation that would support vulnerable new mothers with Medicaid coverage. SB 238 would extend Medicaid coverage for critical postpartum care to 365 days after a mother has given birth, increasing the current six-week coverage window. SB 240 would place coverage of physician-ordered donated, pasteurized breast milk – a scientifically proven lifesaving, cost effective treatment for high-risk, premature infants born at less than 3.5 pounds – on a list of allowable Medicaid services, under certain circumstances.
“Florida’s most vulnerable new moms and their babies are not currently receiving the care they need or deserve – but we have the power to change that,” says Senator Book, a champion for women and children and mother of three-year-old twins. “By extending critical postpartum care and providing access to milk bank services, we can get these moms and their babies off to a healthy start, reduce future reliance on services, and improve outcomes across the lifespan.”
Postpartum care is crucial for the health of new mothers and their children, and studies show that increased coverage leads to improved health outcomes for mothers and babies. The United States is the only industrialized nation with a maternal mortality rate that is on the rise, increasing 26% between 2000 and 2014 – with a third of these deaths occurring between one week and one year postpartum. Additionally, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than non-Hispanic white women. With a growing number of maternal deaths occurring in the postpartum period, keeping women covered through Medicaid is critically important.
Coverage of donor breast milk for premature and medically at-risk infants is another important part of increasing health and wellbeing for Florida’s most at-risk and in-need. Sixty percent of Florida’s approximate 223,000 annual births are covered by Medicaid. For the less than 1% of these births where an infant has very low birth weight, physician-ordered donated, pasteurized breast milk is a proven, cost-effective way to help prevent further costly, life-threatening complications.
Healthy Start programs across the state are in strong support of both bills, which are the latest in Book’s pro-women-and-girls legislative agenda.
This is the latest in Book’s pro-women-and-girls legislative agenda.
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