STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan to provide legal protection to those who donate feminine hygiene products.
“There are tens of thousands of women in this state who struggle to afford the necessity of feminine hygiene products. They are expensive, they aren’t covered by SNAP, and they are rarely donated to food banks or shelters. Corporate donors are reluctant to provide them because some are legally classified as a Class II medical device,” said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth). “Providing protection for donors would open the door to manufacturers of these products making large donations, which would make a significant difference in the lives of the many women and girls in Rhode Island who can’t afford these products.”
Under the bill (2022-H 7140), a good faith-donor of an apparently usable feminine hygiene product to a bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization for free distribution to those in need of the product will not be subject to any criminal penalty for violation of unfair trade practice laws or civil damages arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of the product. The bill would not provide immunity for gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where similar legislation (2022-S 2531) is sponsored by Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).
The legislation is supported by the Rhode Island Food Bank, Amenity Aid, the Alliance for Period Supplies, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters, and the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom.
In Rhode Island, 1 in 7 women and girls between the age of 12 and 44 lives below the federal poverty line. One national survey found that 1 in 5 teen girls reports struggling to afford feminine hygiene products or not being able to purchase them at all.
In recent years, the Rhode Island General Assembly has exempted feminine protection products from the state sales tax and required them to be provided in public schools at no cost.