Important Menstrual Policy

Good policy improves the wellbeing of individuals and communities. We feel compelled to encourage positive policy, where lacking. Here is what we’d love to see happen for women’s health.

    Federal Level:

    • Require the IRS to reclassify menstrual health products as ‘medically necessary,’ so they will be eligible for coverage with flexible spending account dollars, health savings accounts, etc., as other ‘medically necessary’ items are.
    • Conduct a nationwide study to examine the way menstruation, and access to menstrual products, affects women, girls and people who menstruate.
      • No such study has been conducted, making research-based solutions difficult.
      • Study should include information specifically related to students, women and girls who are homeless and in prison as well as women and girls at all income levels.
    • Enable program participants to use existing food stamps, Medicaid, and WIC vouchers for menstrual products; which is not currently allowed.
      • This would not increase the allotted food stamps or other benefits.
    • Require that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) include menstrual health management in the regulations governing workplace restrooms.
    • Require menstrual health products be provided in public restrooms in the same way that soap, toilet paper, and paper towels are provided.

      State Level:

      • Require states to exempt tampons, pads and other menstrual products from sales tax (aka end the ‘tampon tax’).
      • Require schools to provide tampons and pads for students.
      • Encourage state-owned buildings to provide tampons and pads in restrooms.

      See the status of the ‘tampon tax’ in your state.

      The facts about Menstrual Health in America

      Menstrual Health in America

      Statistics regarding menstruation and productivity are hard to find in the U.S. Only two small studies to date have been conducted—one by Proctor & Gamble. The other by ACOG. Neither is comprehensive, and both have special interests attached.

      There is, however, a lot of data from outside of the U.S. comparing ability to manage menstruation with productivity. In developing countries, where there is a direct tie between ability to access/afford menstrual products and performance/attendance at work/school. Girls have been forced to drop out of school and women to miss work because they do not have pads or tampons to control bleeding.

      Ability to access menstrual supplies is not generally seen as a problem in the U.S. Supplies are readily available for purchase at many stores. But the truth is, that the majority of people living below the poverty line are female, and they are sometimes forced to choose between paying rent and purchasing food, or buying pads and tampons.

      That said, here’s what we know. Women and girls in the US suffer when they lack access to menstrual hygiene supplies. It’s been shown elsewhere, and documented here, that girls are missing school when they can’t access menstrual supplies, which inhibits their ability to finish their education, eventually affecting their productivity. Likewise, women who work and lack access to menstrual supplies follow a similar pattern—missing work, inhibiting their ability to progress professionally and sometimes leading to losing employment all together.

      In addition, lack of adequate supplies can cause infections, furthering the conundrum of a monthly, unaddressed health concern. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says tampons and pads should be changed every four to eight hours, depending on flow, to avoid infection. When women and girls don’t have enough money to meet their needs, they may wear tampons and pads for longer than recommended, attempt to wash or reuse them and/or use other unsanitary items to control flow.

      Menstrual Health Policy Background

      Menstrual Health (MH), also called Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is the “catch phrase” term for the ways in which women and girls manage their period—via pads, tampons, menstrual cups, IUDs, etc.

      Noting that half of all constituents (females) have periods, women and men are attempting to de- stigmatize menstruation and recognize this physical trait of females in official policies.

      There is a recent wave of support for menstruation policy in the U.S.

      • The year 2015 was dubbed ‘Year of the Period,’ in the media.
      • In response to the “Year of the Period,” dozens of articles were written in prominent newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, etc.), activist groups became involved in lobbying and changing public perception, and policy books (like Periods Gone Public by Jennifer Weiss- Wolf) were written. In 2019, the Oscar for best short documentary went to “Period. End of Sentence.,” a film about menstruation.
      • Several different petitions surrounding MH policy have garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures each.
      • The motivating factor in the media and in public action has been the realization that menstruation is NOT considered a “medical necessity” (terms vary per agency) in many government agencies, including the IRS, Health and Human Services, OSHA, Medicaid, WIC.
      • Because menstruation is not considered a “medical necessity,” a person with a Health Savings Account (HSA) CANNOT purchase tampons or pads with their HSA, (although they can buy Viagra or Rogaine or BandAids with their card). It similarly affects people on Medicaid or using WIC.
      • Menstrual hygiene supplies are also INELIGIBLE for purchase using federal grant money that is already earmarked for medical or necessary supplies in homeless shelters and schools. So, a homeless shelter can use grant money to purchase blankets and BandAids, but NOT tampons or pads.

      Menstrual Policy: Utah

      There is a stigma/taboo surrounding the discussion of menstruation, especially at a legislative level. Utah faces a heightened stigma, due in part to the makeup of state government. 20% of state legislators are female (80% male), and 0% of federal legislators are female (100% male).

      Legislation exempting tampons and pads from sales tax has been proposed four times in Utah, and has not left committee for a vote because of lack of perceived interest or importance.

      Legislation surrounding ‘women’s health’ has often been viewed as affiliated with a political party. This is a non-partisan issue.

      This local menstrual health movement is piggybacking on a national movement to make positive changes in legislation for women and girls. Issues include: increasing access to tampons and pads, making female genital mutilation illegal in every state, ridding menstrual health supplies of state sales tax and recategorizing menstrual health supplies as “medically necessary” (Rogaine, Viagra, Band- Aids and sunscreen are currently categorized as “medically necessary” but tampons and pads are not) so that they are available for purchase using pre-tax dollars.