Ann Arbor Is the First City in the U.S. To Require Free Menstrual Products in Public Restrooms

Photo courtesy of thedenverchannel.com Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of thedenverchannel.com

On Monday, the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, became the first U.S. city to require free menstrual products in public restrooms, including those in private businesses.

As CNN reported, the city council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance Monday requiring all public restrooms in the 120,000-resident university community — including those located inside businesses — to offer pads and tampons for free, as well as toilet paper and soap.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, who proposed the ordinance, said, “it is a necessity and a long time coming.”

“Access to these items is a matter of personal dignity, a human necessity, and a health care right,” Taylor said at the city council meeting Monday.

According to the legislation, failure to comply with the ordinance, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2022, will result in a $100 fine.

The idea for the ordinance stems from a conversation Taylor had with a high school student, during which she expressed concern about homeless people not having access to menstrual products, Taylor said.

A study conducted in St. Louis, Missouri, released in 2019, found that nearly two-thirds of low-income women could not afford the products at least once in the past year.

Michela Bedard, executive director of PERIOD., a nonprofit aiming to end stigma and high costs of menstruation, told CNN, “It’s entirely possible that there is a very small town out there that has made this decision, and they did it without any fanfare or meeting or help with advocacy. But certainly, this is the first major municipality that’s made waves like this.”

Knowing these products will be available in all public restrooms will both ensure inequities caused by menstruating are mitigated and allow people to live uninhibited lives, said Nancy Kramer, founder of Free The Tampon, an organization promoting restroom equality to business leaders and policymakers.

“It really provides any person who’s been menstruating a peace of mind that they currently don’t have,” Kramer said. “And it just helps us not have a level of potential embarrassment or humiliation.”

The Ann Arbor ordinance comes on the heels of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Nov. 4 signing of a bill repealing certain taxes on menstrual products, a move Bedard and other organizers consider a victory.