Michigan groups: Removing tax on menstrual products a step toward more accessibility
One in five teens in the U.S. struggle to afford period products, and Michigan organizations are working to make pads, tampons, menstrual cups and other similar products more accessible for everyone who gets their period.
Michigan recently removed its 6% sales tax from menstrual products, after the CARES Act in 2020 reclassified them as essential medical services.
Lysne Tait, executive director of the nonprofit Helping Women Period, said it is a small step towards having conversations and reducing stigma around periods, and making sure people have what they need.
"It should be like toilet paper," Tait asserted. "We don't question whether or not a public restroom is going to provide toilet paper. And it really is a public health issue."
Tait noted her group works to supply low-income people who menstruate, and those experiencing homelessness with free period products. She added no federal or state program supplies these products, and said she was spurred to action when she found out the federal Women, Infants and Children program does not cover them.
Shakti Rambarran, director of advocacy for the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health, said it is also important to make sure conversations are inclusive.
"This is not an experience or issue that affects just girls or women," Rambarran contended. "Conversations around menstrual products and equity must also include many trans boys and nonbinary youth. Unfortunately we see that they are wrongly erased or under-supported from these conversations."
Rambarran added the city of Ann Arbor recently implemented a policy to ensure free menstrual products are available in all public restrooms. She hopes the state will follow their example, noting there are health risks associated with lack of access to menstrual products.
"We see folks who are trying to makeshift period products, keep them in longer than would be recommended," Rambarran explained. "When people don't have the menstrual products that they need, it oftentimes means that they can't go to school, or they can't go to work. So lack of access harms their education and harms their careers."