“It is definitely not a luxury to menstruate, and my legislation acknowledges this reality by making it easier for women and girls to access the products that their anatomy requires.” Meng
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) is one of 23 co-sponsors of a bill called the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2017 (H.R. 972).
The bill, authored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), addresses an apparent lack of access to feminine hygiene products for women and girls across the country.
In a press release, Meng claims that girls in low income homes, inmates, and homeless women across the country are suffering from lack of menstrual equity.
“Menstrual hygiene products are a necessity for most women, yet they are treated as luxury items. It is definitely not a luxury to menstruate, and my legislation acknowledges this reality by making it easier for women and girls to access the products that their anatomy requires.” Meng wrote in the press release.
Meng’s bill remedies the situation through five different provisions:
1) Allow individuals to buy menstrual hygiene products with money they contribute to their flexible spending accounts.
2) Provide a refundable tax credit to low-income individuals who regularly use menstrual hygiene products.
3) Allow grant funds from the Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program, which can be used by homeless assistance providers for essential household items, to be used for menstrual hygiene products.
4) Require each state to provide menstrual hygiene products to female inmates and detainees, at no cost and on demand, as a condition of receiving funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
5) Direct the Secretary of Labor to require employers with 100 or more employees to provide menstrual hygiene products to their employees free of charge.
Requiring prisons to provide sufficient products to female inmates is one of the more palatable elements of the bill. However, a mandate to employers with over 100 employees to provide free feminine hygiene products is likely to meet strong resistance. As Meng stated in her press release, women are estimated to spend upwards of $2,500 over the course of their lifetime on tampons alone. Employers likely won’t be eager to pick up the tab.
Meng may already sense the coming push back, saying her bill “may be the first effort at addressing menstrual equity on the national stage, but it won’t be the last.” However, she feels this is a new era for periods, and now is the time to introduce this legislation.
“Growing up, nobody talked about their periods, even if they were having problems; there was a certain taboo surrounding the issue. That all went out the window in 2015, the year ‘the period went public.’” Meng wrote in an op-ed for Marie Claire.
McCollum is the only legislator from Minnesota to back the bill. Alpha News reached out to McCollum for comments, but the congresswoman did not respond before publication.