Meng Introduces Legislation to Improve Access to Menstrual Products as Nation Marks Menstrual Hygiene Day and National Period Poverty Awareness Week
May 28, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day and National Period Poverty Awareness Week, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) today introduced two pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives that seek to advance the fight for menstrual equity, particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Meng introduced the Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act which would allow for more menstrual products to be donated to and distributed by nonprofit organizations. Currently, due to certain menstrual products like tampons being considered “Class 2” medical products, such designations deter the donation of such items – out of fear of liability issues. As such, liability concerns, even for products donated in good faith, limit both the variety and availability of menstrual products, as well as individuals’ choices in how their menstruation needs are met.
The Congresswoman’s legislation would provide liability protection for individuals, manufacturers, and distributors that donate menstrual products in good faith, as well as for the nonprofit groups that receive and distribute them, which as a result would help increase donations. The bill is modelled after the Good Samaritan Food Donations Act, a bill enacted in 1996 that created a liability exemption for food and household donations.
In addition, Meng introduced a resolution to raise awareness of period poverty – the issue of an individual’s inability to access and afford menstrual products. The measure highlights facts and statistics on how many women struggle to afford menstrual products, and the negative impacts that the lack of access has on their lives, especially during the coronavirus crisis. It also recognizes the generosity and contributions of those who provide and donate menstrual products, commends the work of menstrual equity advocates, and calls for data on the menstruation needs of frontline health care workers. In addition, the resolution urges free access to menstrual products for those in need during the COVID–19 crisis including frontline employees, students, individuals experiencing homeless, low-income families, and incarcerated and detained individuals, and encourages Americans to observe National Period Poverty Awareness Week which runs through May 30, and Menstrual Hygiene Day which is today, May 28.
“Period poverty is unthinkable and simply wrong. It impacts one’s self-perception, mental health, educational opportunities, and economic well-being. It can also be detrimental to one’s physical health, as the risk of infections increase with use of substitutions, such as paper towels or toilet paper, or because of an inability to change products as frequently as recommended. This must not – cannot continue,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Menstrual equity is not a choice or a luxury; it is a human right, and a health right. Furthermore, in the current fight against COVID-19, periods do not wait for pandemics. Today, with over 40 million Americans out of work due to the pandemic, the socioeconomic and health challenges of individuals facing period poverty is further enhanced and heightened. It is more important than ever to ensure these menstrual products can be obtained by everybody who needs them. My bill, the Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act, would be a major effort towards making that happen, especially for people who seek to donate such products, as well as those who need these products. Additionally, my resolution would make more Americans aware of the need to address the problem of period poverty. It has been an honor to champion menstrual equity issues in Congress, and I urge all my colleagues to support my two latest initiatives.”
“Period poverty is a public health issue that largely goes unnoticed in the U.S.,” said Joanne Goldblum, CEO of the National Diaper Bank Network and Alliance for Period Supplies. “Rep. Meng’s resolution recognizing National Period Poverty Awareness Week draws attention to the fact that there are menstruators living in each of our communities who cannot afford the material basic necessities they require to thrive. This is unacceptable. We also applaud Rep. Meng’s leadership for introducing the Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act. This bill illustrates how nonprofits, manufactures and government can work together to remove barriers to spur donations of high-quality products to national and local organizations working to end period poverty in the U.S."
“Individual menstrual product donations are the lifeblood of our organization,” said Dana Marlowe, Founder and Executive Director of I Support the Girls. “Without these products, we are not able to support our social service agency partners, who are working with the most vulnerable populations. The individuals that provide these menstrual hygiene product donations, are helping fulfill a never-ending need now more than ever, as periods don’t stop for pandemics. The resolution raising awareness of period poverty and Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act, both introduced by Representative Grace Meng, are essential to help dispel taboos, raise social consciousness about menstrual equity, support menstrual advocates, and continue to work to solve period poverty in the United States.”
“Periods definitely don’t stop for pandemics,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Vice President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, co-founder of Period Equity and author of Periods Gone Public. “From frontline health workers to families in need, the demand for menstrual products is sky high. Pads and tampons are necessities, yet too often are cost prohibitive or hard to access. Donation drives fill emergency gaps, but we also need permanent policy interventions that ensure menstrual equity for all. Lawmakers must do their part, as Congresswoman Meng has done, championing reform at the federal level. On Menstrual Hygiene Day, we thank her for her extraordinary leadership.”
“On behalf of the menstrual product manufacturing industry, I would like to commend Congresswoman Grace Meng for introducing the ‘Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act’ to protect manufacturers and distributors of these essential products, who in good faith donate so that every woman and girl can feel empowered to safely and hygienically manage their menstruation,” said Jane Wishneff, Executive Director of the Center for Baby and Adult Hygiene Products (BAHP).
“Far too many people don’t have access to the period products that they need,” said Nadya Okamoto, Founder of PERIOD. “To date we’ve distributed about 16 million units of period products to people in need, and during COVID-19, we’ve distributed almost 2 million. When social distancing measures were required, our inboxes flooded with requests for period products because menstruation won’t stop for a pandemic, and poverty is being exacerbated for many, and the need for period products has been amplified. We made the commitment to sending period products to any service provider that requests them, and are solely relying on donations of products from our company sponsors. Legislation that would support and even encourage companies to donate period products would make such a difference for our nonprofit and so many others as we continue to serve those in need. That’s why Congresswoman Meng’s bill – the Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act – is so critical. So much of this work to end period poverty starts with starting conversations about the issue and about menstruation in the first place because it has been such a taboo topic throughout history – which is why we are also proud to support the Congresswoman’s resolution to raise awareness about period poverty.”
Meng’s bill and resolution follows her successful effort to enact legislation that allows menstrual products to be purchased with money from health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). The legislation, which she has long sponsored in Congress, was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was the third COVID-19 relief package that was passed by Congress and signed into law in March. It permits funds to be used for numerous types of menstrual products such as tampons, pads, liners, cups, and other items.
“For years, I worked with advocates and stakeholders in a bipartisan effort, even long before this public health crisis, to pass this legislation into law,” said Meng. “This has been an issue near and dear to my heart – and I was proud to lead the fight on this issue in Congress, while building the broad coalition of support across the country. It will go a long way towards making menstrual items more affordable to women, and I am thrilled that it was included in the CARES Act.”