Bill seeks to eliminate tax on feminine products

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 6:56pm

Michigan is joining several other states in the nation in working to abolish the so-called “tampon tax” through a new House bill that seeks to exempt several feminine hygiene products, including tampons and pads, from taxation among other products.

Rep. Sarah Roberts (D–St. Clair Shores) introduced House Bill 5234 on Jan. 21 after hearing about an activist in New York who was advocating for removal of the tax.

“I thought this absolutely makes sense that we should not be taxing women for being women,” Roberts said in an interview. “The state has a number of things that are seen as necessary items, like food and prescriptions, and I think feminine hygiene products are necessary items. It is something we cannot not have.”

The bill has garnered 28 co-sponsors, three of which are Republicans. Nine of the 21 total women in the state House have supported the bill.

“Women menstruate, we’ve been doing it for a very long time, and we should be talking about it,” Roberts said. “We should make it accessible and affordable and safe.”

The push to remove the tax started with California state Rep. Cristina Garcia (D–Calif.), who got the idea to make feminine hygiene products tax free after hearing from local constituents who said the tampon tax accumulates to a large portion of their income.

Garcia said women are being taxed for being women and that until recently, men were afraid to approach the subject.

“We’ve been taught to hide this,” Garcia said when announcing the bill. “The reality is, these institutions of power are male-dominated.”

According to Garcia, the average California woman spends $7 a year on taxes for purchasing tampons and other feminine hygiene products.  The state generates $20 million annually from these taxes alone, Garcia said in a press release.  Nationwide, tampons are taxed more than candy and soda, according to a study from the Tax Foundation. Roberts said the average American woman will use upwards of 17,000 tampons and sanitary napkins during her lifetime, not including those used by her daughters.

LSA sophomore Ashley Wilson, social media director of Students for Choice, said she thought this new initiative can positively affect women of lower income status.

“The idea that having a period is an extra health concern and brings it into the realm of luxury products is ridiculous,” Wilson said. “It is really degrading, being forced to buy certain products because it’s all you can afford when it’s such a personal choice on what to use and what you want to put into your body.”

Currently, only five states do not tax feminine hygiene products: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Canada abolished their tax on feminine hygiene products in the entire country.

Roberts said she is hoping that Michigan can be one of the leading states in this movement.

“There is no other comparable good or product that has to be purchased by men, and this is something that only affects women, and I just don’t think they should be taxed for being women,” Roberts said. “I think that helps to level the playing field.”

Wilson said she sees the removal of the tampon tax as not only a financial assistance but making women feel comfortable with their bodies.

“If we start to take away the stigma around periods and really start to have open discussions about why these things are necessary, it can really help gender equality and get women’s health out of political discussion and into professional medical discussion,” Wilson said.