All women deserve access to menstrual products.
Newsweek Magazine dubbed 2016 the “Year of the Period.” Yet thousands of women and girls in the United States do not have adequate access to menstrual products. As a result, some stay inside when they get their period – missing work and school – in order to avoid shame. Others spend their limited resources to buy what they need. Some women in New York State prisons engage in humiliating negotiations with prison guards to secure adequate access to tampons and pads. Even when they do obtain these products, they are often of very poor quality, and visitors cannot bring these products to their friends and family in prison, as they are considered contraband.
This is not acceptable for our rich country in 2018. Fortunately, some leaders are starting to take action:
- In 2016, the New York City Council passed a bill, and the Mayor signed it into law, guaranteeing access to menstrual products in jails, schools, and homeless shelters. The law was long overdue, and it has made a difference for many poor women and girls. Nonetheless, advocates report that there are still gaps in implementation.
- In 2016 and again in 2017, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to provide menstrual products in prisons and other punitive custodial settings. Both years, this bill (S6176) has stalled in the Rules Committee in the New York State Senate.
- In 2017, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng introduced an even broader ranging bill in Congress. This bill (HR 972) aims to ensure the availability of menstrual products in federal prisons and in shelters and schools that receive federal funding, and provides a refundable tax credit to low-income individuals who regularly use menstrual products.
It is time to take this private issue to the public realm and fight for women’s ability to manage their health and to participate fully in society.