Menstrual Hygiene Products Should Be Free for Low-Income People

Itís not often that Georgia gets it right when it comes to reproductive rights. But the state has finally made a positive move by allocating $1.5 million to supply low-income individuals with menstrual hygiene products.

With†a lack of menstrual hygiene products causing 1 out of 5 girls to miss or leave school early ó as well as 2 out of 3 low-income women saying they can’t afford these products ó Georgiaís approach is one that should be replicated nationwide.

Most aid programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), donít cover menstrual hygiene products. And many states tax period products despite their FDA classification as medical devices. In fact, Georgia failed to remove this tax earlier this year.

Around the globe, menstruation is still deeply stigmatized. Bleeding onto a pad isnít any different from getting a paper cut and needing tissue and a bandage. But socially, the two are worlds apart. While women and girls in the U.S. arenít expected to sequester themselves during menstruation as they are in some parts of the world, they are still subjected to ridicule and shaming.

Myths about menstruation abound in the United States. Itís not safe to take a bath during your period. Using a tampon means youíre not a virgin. Having sex during menstruation can be deadly. You shouldnít exercise while menstruating. Thereís a common takeaway: Menstruation is dirty and debilitating.

Education around menstruation is also lacking. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found fewer than half of middle schools in the United States teach about human development issues ó including reproductive anatomy and puberty ó in a required class. And only 66 percent of high schools address the topic.

Because of all this stigma and a lack of knowledge, poor access to menstrual hygiene products is more than a logistical challenge. Itís a confidence killer. It forces young people out of extracurricular activities and even the classroom. It prevents adults from pursuing work and conducting the daily business of caring for themselves and their families. It deprives all those who menstruate of their dignity.

Asking for help can be daunting in a society where menstruation is still talked about in whispers. And too often, thereís no help to be had anyway.

The U.S. government provides assistance for food and medicine for a reason: They are necessary for survival. So are period products. Without them, menstruation becomes an insurmountable barrier preventing education and economic success. Thatís not just a problem for people who menstruate. Itís a problem for society as a whole.

Image Credit: LoulouVonGlup/Getty Images

64 comments

Emma L
Emma L9 hours ago

Thank you

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pam w
pam w5 days ago

WAIT! It's just dawned on me--Georgia's enacting draconian legislation to track/monitor pregnancies. OF COURSE they'll give away free tampons...they want to know who needs them and who doesn't!

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Lara A
Lara A5 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Emily J
Emily J6 days ago

This is important, especially for girls so that their education isn't affected.

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Ellie L
Emma L7 days ago

Thank you

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill9 days ago

We can’t make everything free. There is absolutely nothing free! Someone has to pay!

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Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang9 days ago

It's appalling how ignorant some people are about menstruation. Here we are in the 21st century with an international space station, hand and facial transplants and other advancements in science, but some people still are in the dark ages.

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Ingrid A
Ingrid A9 days ago

thank you

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Karen H
Karen H13 days ago

Sierra Newhaven, you'’ve evidently never had a job that paid barely enough to cover monthly expenses. Every penny is accounted for. Have you torn up old sheets, t-shirts or other fabrics to make your own "menstrual pads"? They don't hold as much and there's often bleed-through. Have you ever been embarrassed by bleed-through and everyone knows you have your period? Until you have, you have no idea what it's like. Joanna M, you might get by with 12 pads a month. Some women have periods so heavy they can go through a pad every hour or so, which means a lot more than $3 a month. Menstruation is a forbidden topic and stigmatized. Menstruating women are forbidden to cook their husband's meals, have to sleep in a special hut, not allowed to use the community water facilities, not allowed to eat meat or tend to animals, banished until the period is over, not allowed to pray or touch a holy book or attend religious rituals, forbidden from entering a house when a man is inside, considered cursed or impure or filthy.

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Sabrina Degasperi
Sabrina D13 days ago

I also that they should be free for that kind of people,

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