The Maryland General Assembly is working on legislation to require each county board of education to provide zero charge to students, menstrual hygiene products in restrooms at school, under Senate Bill 0427 and House Bill 0205 this session. It is essential for Marylander’s to urge their legislators to support these bills, for the equity, safety, and well being of all students who menstruate – and to end period poverty in our state.
So what is period poverty exactly? Period poverty refers to inadequate access to the tools and education for menstrual hygiene. It affects women, girls, non-binary, and trans people who menstruate (note: letter writers intentional choice to use the phrases “people/students who menstruate”).
Who does this affect? A 2019 study of low-income U.S. Women found that nearly two-thirds of women surveyed struggle to afford period products. This results in their use of toilet paper, paper towels, rags, or other unsanitary alternatives that can cause disease or infection. When able to afford menstrual products, people who menstruate can also have such limited supply that they use the same menstrual product for periods of time that can cause extreme harm. Low-income people who menstruate are often forced to choose between purchasing food or menstruation products; and unfortunately, period products are not provided under food stamps either.
What is the cost of menstruation products? The average cost of period products per month is approximately $9. This results in a little over $100 per year, per menstruating person. The average person who menstruates begins menstruating between ages 10-15. If a student first gets their period at age 10, of the next 8 years they would be in school – their family would have to spend roughly $800 (or more) for her basic hygiene care.
Why is this a problem? Lack of access to feminine hygiene products endangers those who menstruate in multiple ways and places them in highly vulnerable positions. First, as mentioned above it places them at risk for infection or disease if using alternative measures or using a limited supply. Secondly, it has been reported that 1 out of 5 teenagers have struggled to afford pads or tampons, and 1 in 4 have missed class or school due to lack of access to these products.
Question for you – If you were told a Maryland student was missing school (whether that was class time or full days) due to lack of access to a basic sanitary need, like clean water, wouldn’t you be concerned? We don’t expect students to bring their own toilet paper to school, why do we expect them to bring their own menstruation products?
Goldberg, Emma. “Many Lack Access to Pads and Tampons. What Are Lawmakers Doing About It?” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 13, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/us/tampons-pads-period.html.
Miller, Robyn R. “Talking to Your Child About Periods.” Kids Health. Nemours, October 2018. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/talk-about-menstruation.html#:~:text=Most%20girls%20get%20their%20first,that%20it%20will%20start%20soon.
Sagner, Ema. “More States Move To End ‘Tampon Tax’ That’s Seen As Discriminating Against Women.” NPR. NPR, March 25, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/03/25/564580736/more-states-move-to-end-tampon-tax-that-s-seen-as-discriminating-against-women#:~:text=Minnesota%2C%20Illinois%2C%20Pennsylvania%2C%20New,in%20the%20last%20two%20years.
“The Ultimate Guide to Feminine Hygiene.” Duquesne University School of Nursing, December 3, 2019. https://onlinenursing.duq.edu/master-science-nursing/the-ultimate-guide-to-feminine-hygiene/.
Zraick, Karen. “It’s Not Just the Tampon Tax: Why Periods Are Political.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 22, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/22/health/tampon-tax-periods-menstruation-nyt.html?auth=login-email&login=email.
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