NC lawmakers have recently introduced a bill called Menstrual Equity for All that would exempt sales tax on menstrual products and make them free in public schools. Under the new law, products such as tampons, sanitary napkins and menstrual cups would no longer be taxed.
As these products have always been taxed here, it can be easy to overlook the need for change. However, it is important to note that menstrual products are currently taxed as luxury or non-essential items, which any person who gets their period can argue otherwise.
Frankly, it’s ridiculous that period products are still taxed as luxury goods like they are something purchased for fun, when they are a monthly necessity. According to Forbes, the cost of menstrual products averages to $13.25 a month, totaling to over $6,000 in a lifetime. So this bill would save people much more than just a few dollars over time.
This legislation is also greatly needed as period poverty — the lack of access to menstrual care products — continues to be a national and global issue. This has led girls to leave school and miss instruction because they don’t have these necessary hygiene items.
This new bill would provide recurring grants to public schools in North Carolina to purchase period products and prevent students from missing school due to something as normal as getting their period. This would also eliminate the need for teachers to have to spend out-of-pocket for these items.
Period poverty has also been substantially impacting women in prisons as they are forced to resort to using dangerous and unsanitary alternatives such as ripped bedsheets or even reusing the limited products they are given. The passing of this bill could lead to the passing of the federal Menstrual Equity for All Act introduced in 2019. This would mean access to free menstrual products in schools, prisons, homeless shelters, and businesses across the country.
Student organizations such as We Bleed Red have been advocating for ending the stigma around periods as well as free and accessible menstrual products on campus for years.
NC State has also taken this issue seriously with a Menstrual Equity Initiative announced in January of this year. The one-year pilot program has provided free menstrual products in many restrooms on campus.
It’s long overdue that North Carolina state legislators pass this bill and take period poverty seriously. Periods come with enough complications and expenses outside of basic hygiene products, so getting rid of the tampon tax will help alleviate at least some of the monthly cost. Furthermore, the grants providing free menstrual products for public schools will only help students and school attendance.