Meng Unveils Bold Proposal to Provide Menstrual Equity to All
Mar 26, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act, the first comprehensive bill to address the different challenges that women and girls face in affording and accessing menstrual hygiene products.
Menstruation hygiene items, such as pads, tampons, cups, and liners, are necessary purchases for the vast majority of women. Popular culture would have you believe these products are ubiquitous and cheap, but many women face difficulty when it comes to affording and accessing them.
It’s estimated that up to 86% of women use tampons, up to 72% use pads, and 75% use panty liners. Most premenopausal women use menstrual hygiene products on a monthly basis and it is estimated that a woman will use up to 16,000 tampons in her lifetime. Regardless of income, women spend a significant amount of money on purchasing menstruation hygiene products each year.
Beyond being cost-prohibitive, different populations of women and girls may face challenges in accessing menstrual hygiene products. The Menstrual Equity for All Act aims to address these challenges by:
Giving states the option to use federal grant funds to provide students with free menstrual hygiene products in schools – these grants already provide funding for health and wellness efforts;
Ensuring that incarcerated individuals and detainees in federal (including immigration detention centers), state, and local facilitates have access to free, unrationed, menstrual hygiene products;
Ensuring that no visitor is prohibited from visiting an incarcerated individual due to the visitor’s use of menstrual hygiene products;
Allowing homeless assistance providers to use grant funds that cover shelter necessities (such as blankets and toothbrushes) to also use those funds to purchase menstrual hygiene products;
Allowing individuals to use their own pre-tax dollars from their health flexible spending accounts to purchase menstrual hygiene products;
Requiring that Medicaid covers the cost of menstrual hygiene products for recipients;
Directing large employers (with 100 or more employees) to provide free menstrual hygiene products for their employees in the workplace; and
Requiring all public federal buildings, including buildings on the Capitol campus, provide free menstrual hygiene products in the restrooms.
“Today, I am introducing legislation that ends our nation’s inequities toward women, girls, and individuals who menstruate. We can no longer tolerate these injustices and it must end,” said Congresswoman Meng. “We live in the richest nation and yet millions of women and girls suffer from issues of access and affordability. We want women to succeed and advancing menstrual equity is critical to reach this goal. I’m proud to stand with so many women and girls who have worked to realize the dream of menstrual equity for all. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to support my bill, and to help get it to the President’s desk.”
“In order to have a fully participatory society, we must have laws and policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and affordable and available for those who need them,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Vice President for Development and Women and Democracy Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “When access is compromised, whether by poverty or stigma or lack of resources, it is in all of our interests to ensure those needs are met. By advancing this legislation, the U.S. can show its leadership in the global fight for menstrual equity. Congresswoman Meng’s vision is bold and comprehensive, leveraging federal funding to ensure that all who menstruate – whether in school, at work, or behind bars – are treated equitably.”
“The Menstrual Equity for All Act seeks to increase the availability and affordability of menstrual hygiene products for people with limited access,” said Topeka K. Sam, Founder and Executive Director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries and Director of Dignity for Incarcerated Women at #cut50. “This bill draws on our commonalities as women - it is not a bill specifically about women in one category or circumstance, but it instead seeks to create equity in access across all groups. As Dignity Director for the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Campaign at #cut50, I have heard the stories of anguish from women in prison who are denied access to these most fundamental of products. As a woman who has experienced firsthand the anxiety and degradation inherent to the process of requiring women to quantify their cycle and justify their need for access to these products, I support the Menstrual Equity for All Act and its step toward ensuring dignity and equity through access to essential menstrual hygiene products.”
“The Menstrual Equity for All Act importantly tackles some of the key challenges that girls, women, and people who menstruate face here in the U.S.,” said Dr. Marni Sommer, Associate Professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. “I’d challenge us to go further in the coming years, to go beyond products, which although essential are only one component of achieving menstrual equity. In research underway with low-income girls in the U.S., we are hearing stories of bathrooms that lack toilet paper, leaving them nothing to manage with if they get their period unexpectedly and lack a pad; stories of toilet stalls that lack working locks, impacting their ability to manage their periods in privacy; and stories of totally absent or inadequate menstrual education being provided in schools. We can do better.”
“Period poverty isn’t just a monthly issue facing the 180,000 women living on the streets of our nation," said Dana Marlowe, Founder and Executive Director of I Support The Girls. "It extends to jails, the workplace, federal buildings and high schools, where women are denied free access to menstrual products. The reintroduction of the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2019 by Congresswoman Meng will correct this inequity and allow all women to maintain their dignity and self-respect."
“Every day we see the struggles of families and women faced with impossible questions around managing their periods: Do I buy period products or food? Do I leave the house with only one tampon for a job where I can't call in sick? How can I go to school when I have my period and no access to pads or tampons? This bill is an enormous step toward ensuring more families, young girls, and women have access to the products they need to manage their periods in a dignified and healthy way,” said Corinne Cannon, Founder and Executive Director of the Greater DC Diaper Bank. “It also directly addresses one of the larger issues encountered when we speak about menstrual equity - the taboo of even discussing it.”
“Students need free and easy access to feminine hygiene products,” said Natalie Baumeister, a senior at Justice High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. “Before providing pads in the school bathrooms, girls would roll toilet paper in their underwear, tie sweaters around their waists, or go home early because they did not have feminine hygiene products. Some girls used to miss entire school days because they did not have a sufficient way to manage their periods. Now that pads are available in the bathrooms, girls are using them more. Not only is this a healthier solution, but it also allows girls to stay in school. Without easy access to menstrual products, girls miss critical instructional time, which can be detrimental to their academic performance. Many girls at my school have thanked me and other Girl Up Club members for our work in providing free feminine hygiene products in the bathrooms. I hope Congresswoman Meng’s legislation passes so that girls across the country can experience the same relief and security as the girls at Justice High School.”
"Each year thousands of girls in our own community miss school due to circumstances involving their periods,” said Holly Seibold, Founder and Executive Director of Bringing Resources to Aid Women's Shelters (BRAWS). “Our organization, BRAWS, recognizes that an education is invaluable, and through our services, has been able to demonstrate that there is a direct correlation between access to menstrual supplies and an increase in attendance and academic performance. We are thrilled to see that the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2019 includes a provision for students and we’re grateful that Congresswoman Meng recognizes that menstrual equity is not only a problem that exists today, and in our own communities, but that the solution is within reach."
A copy of Meng’s legislation can be viewed here.