Advocates wearing vibrant pink struck a stark contrast against the neutral tones of the Gold Room at the state Capitol.

Those people in pink, along with Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and legislators, were there Thursday to show support for the Period Project.

Cox announced a plan to provide free menstrual products in girls’ and all-gender restrooms in state buildings.

“This will insure that ... all women in the state have the resources they need and the knowledge that they are valued,” Cox said.

The initiative, started last year by The Policy Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded and led by women, aims to increase access to period products in schools, workplaces and public spaces.

Cox praised the group for its work. “We’re so grateful for what you’re doing, especially for our youngest and most vulnerable in the state,” he said.

The governor also credited House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, for his work last year on HB162, which requires all K-12 schools to offer free period products in school restrooms.

Henderson said she symbolically wore white pants to promote period confidence.

Jane Clayton, Mary Catherine Perry and Emily Bell McCormick, The Policy Project president and founder, embrace after a press conference to announce the state will provide free period products in all women’s and all-gender bathrooms in Utah’s executive state buildings in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 2, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“I’m happy we’re here and we’re able to talk about this issue, and we’re able to normalize this issue, because this issue is very normal,” Henderson said, “but it’s one we haven’t talked about.”

The Policy Project founder Emily Bell McCormick said, “Menstruation is something that historically was not considered in the halls of the Capitol, despite periods being a biological occurrence that is necessary in the process of giving life to all of us and an occurrence that one-half of the population experiences.”

McCormick compared period products to toilet paper, saying they are a “necessity” for women.

“This year more than 337,000 students have been impacted,” by HB162, she said.

This movement, McCormick said, is spreading.

“Utah is leading the way, and not just in schools,” she said. The Period Project, she said, is piloting the Period Positive Workplace Initiative.

The initiative is “a global effort to make period products freely available in workspaces,” McCormick said. “And the results are astounding.”

Morgan Stanley offers free period products to 68,000 employees in 41 countries, McCormick said. “Efforts started right here in Utah,” she said.

Providing free period products in restroom allows for “greater activity in the workplace and greater dignity for the worker, she said. “It’s positively affecting public health outcomes, educational outcomes and mental health outcomes for half of our population.”

McCormick said Utah has now become the first state to take action to provide free period products in state buildings.