Are Free Feminine Hygiene Products In NYC Really Free?

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New York City will officially be the first U.S. city to introduce a program where tampons and pads will be free in NYC public schools, prisons, and homeless shelters. The decision came after a unanimous vote by the New York City council on Tuesday.

The bills are not law yet, but are in the process of becoming enacted. Mayor de Blasio said he believes “tampons and pads are not luxuries, they’re necessities.”

The decision to make these products free for public schools, prisons, and homeless shelters was promoted by city councillor Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who voiced her feelings about the taboo nature surrounding periods. She believes “periods have been stigmatised for too long.”

Supporters of the movement believe that tampons and pads should not be a burden on low-income women and girls when they are of basic need, not luxury or “want” as Mayor de Blasio had pointed out.

It was also pointed out by campaigner Jennifer Weiss-Wolf that toilet paper, another necessity, is “freely available in public and school restrooms, funded by city budgets and viewed as essential to everyday health and sanitation,” unlike pads and tampons.

According to BBC, “Commentators on Mayor Bill de Blasio's Facebook post announcing the move were mostly positive, saying the measures were "fantastic" and would help women.”

However, the question is why has it taken so long for the measures to pass in the first place? The City says it will budget for these products the same way it does for toilet paper and hand soap, resources that help with public health and sanitation. With more than 10 million women in the state of New York falling within peak age for pregnancy, this change will undoubtedly help a vast population in New York City. 

So are they really “free?” Up until this past May, feminine hygiene products were still being taxed the state's 4 percent sales tax. The tampons and pads now being offered free in New York City are tax-subsidized, and rightly so. Taxpayer dollars do go to the cost, and it should have been going there long before, but at least we’re beginning to see it now. 

As Jessica Valenti wrote on The Guardian, “This is less an issue of costliness than it is of principle: menstrual care is health care, and should be treated as such.”

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