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2 Proposed Bills Would Provide Free Feminine Hygiene Products in Public Restrooms

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Michigan Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) is taking on The Tampon Tax in an interesting — and important — way. Roberts recently introduced House Bills 5426 and 5427, according to the State News, in an effort to make feminine hygiene products free in public schools and state-operated restrooms.

Both bills are sitting in the Committee on Government Operations. The committee has not yet announced a specific date for hearings, but Roberts explained that she feels confident.

“I think with the increased (news) coverage and other states — there’s even a bill at the federal level to eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products — I’m hoping that we’re going to start to see some movement,” Roberts said.

The media coverage she references is the aptly-named “tampon tax,” which has gotten national attention in recent months. According to the Detroit Free Press, the website Change.org began a global online petition to scrap sales taxes on hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads.

Because these items are considered paper products, they have historically been subjected to sales taxes. But as many women have begun saying, these items are already very expensive; placing additional costs on the items creates an “undue burden” on those who menstruate.

The typical package of maxi pads costs around $7, and the average woman can go through one package per month. For women who experience certain other gynecological conditions like endometriosis, which affects an estimated 13.6 million American women, the cost of having a monthly period is often even higher.

If Roberts’ two bills are passed through the Michigan legislature, it could have a big impact on the way women’s healthcare is approached. Even if the bills are not signed, at the very least, they are creating an open space for constructive dialogue.

“We need to be talking about women’s health issues like this and not have any discomfort about it,” said Roberts, “or we need to take away the taboos about talking about a variety of women’s health issues. And I think these bills are an opportunity to advance that conversation.”

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