Tackling tampons: new bills call for better access to feminine products


Chanel Taylor

According to the Huffington Post, the average woman will spend over $1,500 in her lifetime on tampons.

Feminine hygiene is a topic all Mercy students can relate to. At any given moment, a student can be heard asking another student for a pad or tampon without hesitation. In general, Mercy’s student body is comfortable with the subject, likely because of the all-female environment. This is not always the case for younger girls in co-ed public schools, however. Rep. Sarah Roberts (D) from St. Clair Shores has proposed two bills to remedy this problem.

The first bill would eliminate the state sales tax of 6 percent on feminine hygiene products. The second bill would make sanitary napkins and tampons free in public school restrooms. The idea behind the bills, according to Roberts, is to “stop taxing women for being women.” Sanitary napkins and tampons are necessary for all women during their menstrual years, and women in lower socioeconomic situations may not have the means to purchase as many sanitary napkins as they need. Eliminating the 6 percent tax would make feminine products more affordable for these women. Those who oppose the bill, however, argue that the elimination of the tax would cause a substantial loss of revenue for the state.

Another problem that may be linked to the expense of tampons is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). A woman may get TSS when a tampon is used for an extensive amount of time and the body goes into shock, usually due to a bacterial infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also be life-threatening. Some women who have a hard time affording feminine hygiene products may leave tampons in for longer than advised in order to extend the use of product and save money. This puts these women at high risk for TSS. If the tax is eliminated, it is possible that there will also be a decrease in TSS cases, especially in women of lower socioeconomic status.

The bill proposing that napkins and tampons should free in public school restrooms is a hot topic. Many women know the feeling of finding out they started their monthly cycle and do not have any napkins or tampons. For some, this means attempting to locate exact change for the machine in the bathroom, but for others, it means making a quick-fix product out of toilet paper because they have no change on hand. Those in favor of the bill believe it could help alleviate the stress of not having 25 cents to take care of a problem all women face. Also, young girls who are less comfortable with the topic would not have to endure the embarrassment of asking their friends or teachers for a pad. Supporters argue that public school restrooms provide soap, toilet tissue, and paper towels as necessary items, so why not add pads and tampons to that list? The argument against this bill is that it will cost more money and some students may take large amounts of the school’s limited supply of napkins and tampons, not only leaving none for others, but increasing the amount of products a school would have to purchase.   

Many are interested to see what will become of these bills in the upcoming months, and especially since most of Michigan’s representatives – those who will be voting on the bills – are men.