A bill proposed by mostly Maryland female organizers aimed at expanding access to menstrual hygiene products in state prisons has made it into law.
Gov. Larry Hogan signed House Bill 797 and Senate Bill 598 on Tuesday, requiring Maryland correctional facilities to provide adequate supplies of sanitary pads and tampons to incarcerated women.
The law comes after months of work by Reproductive Justice Inside, a coalition of more than a dozen prisoner rights groups, women’s groups and health care advocates.
“We’re very, very happy that this has gone through,” said Thurmont resident Julie Magers, a leader of the Maryland Prisoner’s Rights Coalition and Justice and Recovery Advocates, which worked with Reproductive Justice Inside in support of the bills.
“It will bring assistance to all the women who are incarcerated in Maryland,” Magers said. “We’re all very proud to have been involved in this projects and happy to see it passed.”
The law seeks to bridge gaps in access to menstrual hygiene products that incarcerated women in Maryland have reported experiencing.
Maryland women have improvised tampons and pads in response to limited and low-quality supplies. At a January event at the C. Burr Artz Public Library, former Maryland Correctional Institution for Women inmate Kimberly Haven recounted suffering toxic shock after using a tampon made from toilet paper.
The new law requires Maryland prisons, jails and detention centers to adopt a written policy of providing the hygiene products for incarcerated women upon admission, on a regular basis and upon request.
“We are thrilled to see Maryland’s lawmakers step up in a big way to ensure fair and dignified treatment of women and girls under the state’s care,” Diana Philip, head of NARAl Pro-Choice Maryland, said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Women and girls will no longer have to choose unhealthy ways to address their personal needs or forgo participating in onsite jobs, educational programming or visits with family and their attorneys.”