Category: Featured

We need to talk about periods – Bill would make menstrual products available in schools, shelters, prisons

IN 2014 a German nongovernmental organization called WASH United dubbed May 28 “International Menstrual Hygiene Day” to raise visibility around the daily struggle many people face with menstrual hygiene management. The date was chosen intentionally as a reference to the average length of the menstrual cycle – 28 days.

Since then nine states in the US have exempted tampons from taxation, acknowledging that the state budget should not be funded by a cost borne by only half the population. In 2016, New York City passed legislation to make menstrual products available in all public schools, shelters, and prisons. And, just a few months ago, we saw a short documentary, Period. End of Sentence, take home an Academy Award and watched the filmmakers give an impassioned acceptance speech about the need for better menstrual health education and access to menstrual products across the globe.

Right here in Massachusetts, Somerville, New Bedford, and Brookline student activists are organizing to demand that bathrooms be stocked with menstrual products. And town meeting in Brookline voted last week to do just that. It can’t be denied that the menstrual equity movement is growing.

Today, our Massachusetts Legislature has an opportunity to lead the country in menstrual equity legislation by passing Mass NOW’s new bill, An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters, and Public Schools. (It’s nicknamed the “I AM. Bill.”) The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Reps.  Jay Livingstone of Boston and Christine Barber of Somerville, contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.

As it stands, over 70 legislators have signed on in support of our bill and more than 40 menstrual activists, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and public servants in Massachusetts have signed onto the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition. But the path forward is long and our work toward ending the stigma around menstruation is far from over. There is a dearth of information about what the state of access to menstrual products is in schools, prisons, and shelters. We’re working with stakeholders across the state to gather stories from all those who would be impacted by this bill to develop an implementation strategy that’s feasible, economical, and truly a service to those it’s meant to support.

Language matters because it is a part of how systems of oppression operate. That’s why the bill refers to “menstruating individuals” – because we know that not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators identify as a woman. We also avoid using the word hygiene because periods are not something dirty that needs to be cleaned away.

Meet the Author

Sasha Goodfriend

Massachusetts chapter National Organization of Women

Mass NOW is calling on menstruators and non-menstruators alike to talk about periods. The power in the stigma and shame around menstruation – and around female and femme identifying bodies more broadly – lies in our refusal to even talk about it. We have the power to break this cycle through conversations around the dinner table, in health education classes and  with Mass NOW; in consciousness raising style in living rooms across the Commonwealth. We shouldn’t need a day to talk about periods, but once you start talking about it, you’ll find that the conversation doesn’t stop flowing.Sasha Goodfriend is the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.

Metro-Boston Communities Endorse Cape Bill

    
From MassDivest…

FALMOUTH – Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ bill to allow the 104 independent retirement systems in Massachusetts to divest from the fossil fuel industry (H.3662) has gained the support of two cities in the Metro-Boston region. The city councils of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to pass the Cape bill.

Somerville City Council President Katjana Ballantyne introduced the resolution April 25 and gained unanimous support from the Council. According to Ballantyne, “We all need to get out of these fossil fuel investments before we lose everything. We need to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels before all is lost.”

This development came on the heels of a similar resolution passed in February by the Cambridge City Council.

“I support H.3662 to give cities and towns local control over divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels,” said Jan Devereux, vice mayor of Cambridge. “Many Cambridge residents, businesses and municipal employees are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints, and it sends a mixed message for the city’s retirement fund to hold investments that are in direct conflict with the goals of our Net Zero Ordinance and action plan.”

MassDivest introduced these resolutions in Somerville and Cambridge.

“With climate risk increasingly threatening the future, it is important for retirement systems to have the option to protect their assets from the decline of the fossil fuel industry,” said Jessica Hanway, of MassDivest.

Fernandes’ bill provides legislative authorization deemed necessary by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) via a local option mechanism that allows independent retirement systems to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The bill does not mandate divestment in the way that the Legislature has previously done with regard to tobacco and apartheid South Africa.

“The local option bill would allow fossil fuel divestment to move forward in Massachusetts,” said Randi Mail, legislative director of MassDivest. “Instead of a top-down approach, it would be bottom-up. This bill would empower 104 independent retirement systems at the city and county levels.”

Cambridge and Somerville have long histories of supporting fossil fuel divestment. Somerville has advocated for this move since Mayor Joseph Curtatone called for it in 2014.

“The need for urgency when it comes to cities addressing climate change cannot be understated,” Curtatone said. “Every city and town needs right now — not later — to be taking a close look at their carbon output, setting ambitious carbon reduction goals, and following through. Some of that work will be challenging and complex, but fossil fuel divestment is an impactful and fiscally responsible step we could all easily take right now with the help of Rep. Fernandes’ important bill.”

Fernandes cited this legislation in remarks to the organizers of Harvard University’s recent Heat Week event: “Investing is putting down money now for a long-term future gain, and you can’t name a worse long-term future than one where climate change continues to ravage our cities and towns. That’s why we need to divest from fossil fuels. As a millennial, there is no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation or my children’s generation than that of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. We need to get serious about this, and we need to get serious about it here in Massachusetts, which is why Rep. Jay Livingstone and I filed a bill that allows our 104 independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuels.”

About MassDivest

MassDivest is a coalition working to divest pension funds in Massachusetts from fossil fuels. They have partnered with Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Rep. Jay Livingstone on H.3662. MassDivest also works with Senator Marc Pacheco, who has introduced S.636, a similar bill in the Senate.

Legislative Update: Texting and Driving Ban

More information about the bill can be found below

On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed legislation to require the use of hands-free mobile telephones while driving. This legislation was passed with public safety in mind as we have increasingly seen tragedy in our communities as a result of texting while driving. The legislation also included important data collection information to make sure this and other traffic laws are not enforced in a discriminatory manner. I was proud to vote YES on this important issue. The bill is now before the Senate, which has indicated it will take it up in the next few weeks.


Texting and Driving Ban

H. 3793 – An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving

  • Prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices by drivers unless the device is being used in hands-free mode, with a single touch or swipe allowed to active hands-free operation.
  • Does not apply to public safety personnel or first responders performing their duties, and drivers could still use mobile electronic devices in certain emergency situations
  • Requires annual analysis of racial and demographic identification of drivers issued citations during traffic stops. (The police must issue citations for all car stops and provide a warning or issue a ticket.)
  • Study created to determine how to expand data collection for stops when a citation is not issued.

State Unveils Conceptual Plans for Craigie Bridge Bike Lane

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) unveiled conceptual plans for the installation of a bike lane on the Craigie Bridge (a/k/a Charles River Dam Road) at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at the Museum of Science.

MassDOT Highway Engineer Andy Paul outlined the state’s proposal to add dedicated the bike lane from Land Boulevard to Leverett Circle, which would reduce the existing six travel lanes to five.

The 5-foot bike lane and 11-foot travel lanes would be separated by a 1½-foot buffer area with flex-posts and painted markings. In the opposite direction, the travel lanes would measure 10 feet wide.

Bike signals would be installed at Land Boulevard and Museum Way, as would a new left-turn lane to provide access to the Gilmore Bridge, Paul said.

Also, the left-turn lane from Land Boulevard onto Charles River Dam Road would be modified from double-left to a single-left.

At Museum Way, the buffer between the travel and bike lanes would be reduced to a single lane.

Flex-posts would be removed coming over the bridge past the museum towards Leverett Circle while the bike lane would be reduced to 4 feet and travel lanes would be narrowed to 10 feet, Paul said.

A left-turn would also be installed to provide a bike crossing at Martha Road.

Heading towards the museum, the bike lane would measure 6½ feet over the bridge.

The project is scheduled to start next month after ongoing construction on the Gilmore Bridge wraps up, with Phase One entailing the addition of new pavement stripings, signage and flex-posts while the second phase would involve the modification of traffic signals.

The first public meeting on this matter took place at MIT last December, followed by a “Road Safety Audit” the following month, Paul said.

“MassDOT and [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] did a great job of taking feedback from all stakeholders,” State Rep. Jay Livingstone told this reporter. “I think the final product will greatly improve the experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Legislative Update: Lifting the Cap on Kids and Banning Conversion Therapy

On Wednesday, March 13th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors and legislation to expand access to public assistance for families. Both bills were priorities of mine this session (and past sessions) and I am excited vote for them to pass the House. More information about each can be found below.


Lifting the Cap on Kids

H. 104 – An Act to lift the cap on kids

  • This bill repeals a 1990’s punitive welfare reform that did not allow a family to receive additional welfare benefits for children born after the family started to receive benefits.
  • The current law means that parents have to split meager benefits meant for one child between two children. Parents typically receive $100 per month per child.
  • The bill directs that the Department of Transitional Assistance, which oversees the program, to implement the changes by 9/1/19 with aid retroactive to 1/1/2019.

Banning Conversion Therapy

H. 140 – An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation

  • Prohibits health care providers from advertising for or engaging in efforts that attempt or purport to impose change on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient less than 18 years of age.
  • The controversial conversion therapy that this legislation would ban has been used to try to “convert” someone who is LGBTQ to being heterosexual, treating a person’s sexuality as an illness rather than a part of who they are.