Period equity activists celebrated this provision, noting that Congress was recognizing the role period products play in women’s financial insecurity. “Economic relief for women is key this year,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, co-founder of the legal and advocacy organization Period Equity.
But not every American has a flexible savings account, and activists point out that this new provision won’t ease every woman’s access to menstrual products: “There is no magic period law,” Ms. Weiss-Wolf said.
Some states are looking at abolishing taxes associated with tampons. There are currently 30 states in which period products are subject to a sales tax. In most states, sales taxes make exemptions for various necessities. States collectively make over $150 million annually from taxing menstrual products. The organization Period Equity argues that this is not just inconvenient for women, but also unconstitutional. They argue the tax amounts to a violation of the equal protection clause, since the law targets a bodily function associated with women.
In August, plaintiffs in Michigan introduced a class-action lawsuit against the tampon tax. “I’ve never sued anyone, let alone the state,” said Clare Pfeiffer, 46, a plaintiff in the Michigan lawsuit. “But period products are not a luxury item. I know how important it is to restore dignity to people who are facing a crisis.”
Laura Strausfeld, co-founder of Period Equity, helped initiate a similar lawsuit in New York state in 2016, which was dropped after the passage of legislation banning the state’s tampon tax. She believes the Michigan case will provide an impetus for other states to stop the tax before they face similar lawsuits.
“The challenge to Michigan’s tampon tax is putting other states on notice,” she said. “They’re maintaining an unconstitutional law and we will pursue legal action to dismantle the tax.”
Canada, Australia, South Africa and India are among the countries in recent years that have eliminated such taxes on menstrual products. Britain’s “tampon tax” was scrapped as of Jan. 1.