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Menstrual Accessibility: An Example of Possible Legislation

Written by Andrew Hermann

Edited by Annika Lilja


Credit: Paul Becker/Becker1999

As a result of severe accessibility issues regarding menstrual products in the United States, a bill like the Menstrual Accessibility and Equity Act, which I have authored, is necessary to strive to eliminate the "tampon tax" and ensure equitable access to essential menstrual products. By reclassifying these items as essential medical supplies, the bill makes them eligible for federal assistance programs, such as SNAP. Additionally, it mandates free provision of menstrual products in prisons, schools, and homeless shelters, promoting menstrual hygiene and supporting individuals in need across the nation.


Critics of the bill argue that the enactment of Section 1, or possibly the entire bill, could disrupt the existing regulatory processes within SNAP. Another concern raised is how to effectively verify and regulate benefits related to menstruation. Questions arise about how individuals would prove that they are menstruating and qualify for these benefits as well as about the potential for abuse or false claims. The mention of benefits starting and ending at a specific age raises questions about the fairness and representativeness of such criteria. If the age specified does not align with the entire population's needs, it may lead to inequitable distribution of benefits. Critics may argue that without clear mechanisms in place to prevent abuse or exploitation of these benefits, there is a risk that some individuals may take advantage of the system.


 

Title of Bill: Menstrual Accessibility and Equity Act

BE IT HEREBY ENACTED BY THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS

Preamble:

Whereas in the 40 years on average that a person menstruates, they will spend $13.25 a month and $6,000.00 annually. Whereas the lack of resources to menstrual products forces menstruators to resort to other options, such as using rags, paper towels, or cardboard which can lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis, which 1 in 3 American women get; and toxic shock syndrome, which has a mortality rate of approximately 50%. Whereas states that have a sales tax do not tax items like food and medical supplies because they are viewed as essential, even providing necessity exemptions on items such as bingo supplies, cotton candy, erectile dysfunction pills, gun club memberships and tattoos, while menstrual products are viewed as non-medical or non-essential items. Whereas more than 4 in 5 teenagers have missed class or known a classmate who has missed class due to not being able to get menstrual products. Whereas access to menstrual products in the prison and jail systems is likewise limited, leading to unsanitary and dangerous practices among incarcerated individuals. Whereas there are approximately 172,700 prisoners or detainees in women's facilities in federal custody as of 2023, and approximately 2 million prisoners total prisoners or detainees in federal, state, and local custody as of 2023. Whereas 38 million people in the United States benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Section 1: Eliminate the “Tampon Tax” by classifying menstrual products as essential medical items, allowing them to qualify for SNAP benefits alongside non-luxury items like food


Section 2: Increase accessibility to menstrual products


Subsection A: Require the Department of Corrections to provide free, FDA-approved menstrual products to prisoners and detainees in federal correctional facilities


Subsubsection A: Offer a block grant annually to states specifically to provide state and local prisons with menstrual products


Subsection B: Require the Department of Education to provide free, FDA-approved menstrual products to public middle and high school students


Subsection C: Require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide free, FDA-approved menstrual products to individuals in need who access homeless shelter services


Subsection D: Require all United States based corporations that are greater than 100 employees to provide free, FDA-approved menstrual products to their employees


Section 3: Require Medicaid to cover menstrual products for its clients, so menstrual products such as pads and tampons would be paid for by Medicaid


Section 4: Any funding necessary for this bill shall be determined and allocated by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Section 5: Definitions


Subsection 1: Let “menstrual product” be defined as pads, pantiliners, tampons, menstrual cups, or any product designed specifically for absorption or containment of menses


Subsection 2: Let “tampon tax” be defined as the practice of applying regular sales taxes or value-added taxes to menstrual products


Subsection 3: Let “SNAP” be defined as a federal assistance program in the United States that provides eligible low-income individuals and families with funds to purchase food


Section 6: This bill will be enacted 91 days after passage.


 

Sources:


A Legislative Toolkit - American Civil Liberties Union, www.aclu.org/wp-content/uploads/legal-documents/121119-sj-periodequitytoolkit.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.


Krumperman, Katie. “Period Poverty in the United States.” Ballard Brief, 2 Aug. 2023, ballardbrief.byu.edu/issue-briefs/period-poverty-in-the-united-states#:~:text=and%20women%20in%20the%20United,to%20afford%20menstrual%20products%20before.&text=The%20study%20also%20included%20that,who%20are%20White%20(23%25). Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.

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