SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – At the roundhouse, Monday morning’s House Education Committee was full of student voices. Coming from around the state, they asked legislators to support a bill to provide free access to tampons and sanitary pads in New Mexico schools.
Sophia, a high schooler who worked with legislators to draft the bill, highlighted why the legislation is needed. “It was a fear that we wouldn’t have enough products to make it through the day,” Sophia told the committee.
Sophia explained how that fear drove a group of students to request free menstrual products for the bathrooms at their school. When the principal agreed, and the bathrooms were supplied, sixth graders at the school responded with “colorful collage” of sticky note “thank yous,” Sophia recalled.
Now, House Bill 134 would expand those resources across New Mexico. The bill would require the state’s Public Education Department to provide products to students at no cost. To do so, the bill suggests giving the Public Education Department $3 million a year.
Under the bill, the products would be placed in each women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms at every public middle, junior high, secondary, and high school. They’d be in at least one men’s restroom in those schools. They’d also be in at least some bathrooms at elementary schools.
During Monday’s committee hearing, a range of students and adult advocates spoke up in support of the bill. “I’m absolutely appalled, all the time, that we have to bring this type of legislation forward,” Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Abq.) said. “You would think that we would have already been at this place and these products would have been made available.”
In fact, during the 2019 session, a similar bill was introduced. But, that bill died after being amended.
On Monday, no one spoke in direct opposition of the new bill, although some said the bill should not place feminine products in men’s bathrooms. “Women’s bathrooms, I’m good. Gender-neutral bathrooms, I’m good,” Rep. Jack Chattfield (R-Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, San Miguel & Union) said. “I think putting them in the boy’s bathroom, they will be vandalized and it will cause some silliness.”
“I don’t think I’m gonna vote against your bill because of that,” he said. “But I do think it’s going to cause some unnecessary silliness at the schools.”
Ultimately, the committee voted in favor of the bill. But it must pass through more rounds of approval if the bill is to become law. On its way, it’s possible that the bill will be amended to clarify if feminine products should be placed in men’s bathrooms.