The Colorado House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require local jails to provide free feminine hygiene products to women in their custody.
House Bill 1224 extends a courtesy legislators built into the state budget for women in state custody two years ago.
Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said dignity and security are at the heart of the issue. The bill would allow women in local lockups to request tampons, pads, or panty liners or other products, based on their needs.
"These are things that are essential for women," Herod told the House before an overwhelming voice vote in favor of the requirement. "And when we don't have them in correctional facilities, they are being used to barter, to trade and to sanction."
Moreover, Herod added, "Women are having to trade sex for access to tampons."
The bill still must pass a recorded roll call vote in the House before moving to the Senate to start over. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats, but the issue hasn't proven partisan.
Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, supported the bill in committee and on the House floor Tuesday.
Budget analysts expect the cost to local governments to be minimal.
In 2017, Herod secured a budget amendment to cover the cost for women in state facilities, estimating at the time it would cost $40,000 out of the Department of Corrections' $28 million budget.
She said Tuesday the Department of Corrections has reported no issues with providing the products.
"I can only imagine what it must be like for a women to be denied access to feminine hygiene products that she needs, because she can't afford to pay for them," Herod said.
"Even further, we found that women who soiled their clothes because they didn't have access to the right products were being sanctioned and denied access to the commissary in some places. ... That is so humiliating."
She said women often have to plead their case for a tampon to male staff, "creating a situation that's breeding this inhumane treatment of women."