Why menstrual equity matters

Period products should be free for everyone – period.


Graphic by Diya Hegde

Caroline Bush

Going to an all girls school, I barely think twice about having free menstrual products available to me every day. Periods are a part of life, and therefore it shouldn’t be difficult to find necessary items for free, right?

But this is certainly not the case in most of the United States. The government categorizes menstrual products as “luxury” items, taxing them to the same extent as items like decor, electronics, makeup and toys. 

Products that allow us to satisfy basic needs should be available as the bare minimum of care from our government. According to the Global Health Reports, 800 million people in the world menstruate, making period products a basic necessity for over 25% of the population.

Food stamps and government subsidies under the women, infants and children program help provide access to groceries but somehow do not cover menstrual products. 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, in the United States, 22 million people who menstruate live in poverty and do not have adequate access to period products – an issue known as “period poverty.” According to a study done in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 21% of people who menstruate are unable to afford these products every month. Lack of access to hygienic products heightens the growing poverty crisis in our country.

People with heavy flows cannot afford to change their products when it is necessary due to the financial challenge that comes with having to buy more pads or tampons than the average menstruating person. They might also try to extend the life of their products, which could put them in a life-threatening situation since they are at a greater risk for toxic shock syndrome. 

To solve this problem, we need to start by removing the stigma surrounding periods altogether. If people begin to view period products as a necessity, just like food, lawmakers could remove the taxes put in place and make it easier for people all over the country to handle menstruation. 

The movement to make menstrual products more accessible has already begun, but we still have a long way to go. Dallas ISD already offers free period products in all of its schools. Last summer, Austin ISD followed in its footsteps to provide the same services. The district spent about $85 thousand on the dispensers and $70 thousand on the first batch of products.

Moreover, a unanimous decision in Scotland made all period products free. Scotland sets an example for lawmakers in the United States, laying out the framework for us to see that period equity truly is possible if we bring awareness to the issue.