Tampons and Pads and a New Law

Few among us would think that access to sanitary napkins is a problem. Yet to the less fortunate among us, it is. Now, New York City made history recently by enacting legislation enabling women in schools, correctional facilities and shelters to have access to tampons and pads during their periods. The lack of access has had sad and objectionable effects that usually went unmentioned because the whole idea of menstruation and menstrual products have been taboo. NYC is in the lead as far as the US is concerned. Canada abolished its goods and services tax on menstrual products last summer. The European Union allows the Value Added Tax to be 0 and even Kenya has since 2011 budgeted up to $3million a year to distribute free sanitary pads to schools in low income communities. In the US 40 states have what is called a tampon tax, 15 have moved to get rid of it in the past year and just last June the American Medical Association issued a statement urging states to exempt menstrual products from taxes. What is saved by eliminating tax on these products may however not be of much help in most cases where access is needed. That’s why the NYC law can provide needed relief and being the first in the US is to be noted. As any progress it did not come without effort from advocacy groups. Headlines from NPR and Cosmopolitan magazine as well as part of an initiative from Michelle Obama also all contributed. The three intended beneficiaries of the free distributions are schools where the monthly expense can be often too much for low income families, in shelters where the lack of sanitary napkins may not only be a health issue, but one of shame allowing women not to have to go around with blood stained clothing, and correctional facilities where the lack of menstrual products was named a health crisis by the Correctional Association of New York, a state where in one prison doctors requested a bag filled with used pads as proof they needed more. While as a law it may not affect most of us, it may nevertheless make us feel hopeful that other states follow NYC’s example.