In her lifetime, a woman will spend, on average, $18,000 buying tampons, pads, Midol—among other things—to cope with her period, according to the Huffington Post.
Lawmakers in California think that's a lot of money, so they're putting tampons and pads in some of the state's most needy schools.
"At one point, I used newspaper, just so I can get to school."
Assembly Bill 10 was passed last month and will stock 50% of bathrooms in Title I schools, which are schools where more than 40% of the students live below the poverty line. That's about 120 schools.
The goal is to prevent students from missing schools because they can't afford pads or tampons.
"I would use toilet paper, or kind of double up on underwear. At one point, I used newspaper, just so I can get to school," said Clarissa Renteria, who went to public schools in California all her life. She says she would sometimes miss school because she didn't have tampons.
"We've heard that a lot from young women—that they feel like they're burdens on their family," said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, the legislator who introduced the bill. "[They] will instead stay home and not go to school or will instead extend the life of their products and get sick."
Irrespective of if you're poor or not, we have this biology, and a lot of times, we have an emergency.
Go to mostly any drugstore, and you'll see that a box of tampons will cost you about $7 plus tax. Clarissa says she spends about $40 a month on tampons now. For families with multiple women, this can add up quickly. Assembly member Garcia, who's been dubbed the "Tampon Queen" by constituents and legislators alike, says she was tired of women being charged for a basic necessity. A bill from Garcia that would have eliminated the tax on tampons in California was vetoed by the governor in 2016. Garcia made the argument that lower alcohol taxes shouldn't be considered while the state continues to tax women for their periods.
"This is an essential," said Garcia. "And irrespective of if you're poor or not, we have this biology, and a lot of times, we have an emergency. Our period sometimes surprises us."
After tampon dispensers were installed in one New York City school as part of a pilot project, the school reported a 2.4 percent increase in attendance. The program has since been rolled out to schools citywide. Illinois also recently passed a similar bill. In California, the bill passed with only about 4 nays and opposition from one conservative group. The group, California Right to Life Committee, feels it's not the government's job to fund menstrual care and voiced opposition to the bill.
"If these are such low poverty level families, they're undoubtedly on welfare," said Camille Giglio, chair for the group. "In the welfare, we the taxpayers are already paying for them to have decent access to healthcare, hygiene, education, everything, so that's a false argument."
But food stamps and Medicaid don't cover menstrual products, according to the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services websites. But the bill, which goes into effect January 2018, won't be cheap. A legislative analysis estimated that it will cost "millions of dollars" to install the dispensers and "hundreds of thousands" to stock them.
"School's kind of supposed to be the place where you're safe," said Clarissa Renteria. "You know, you get food if you don't have any. So pads over there is just a blessing. So I'm very, very excited."
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