By Bill Parry
As promised, City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) has expanded her campaign for free feminine hygiene products beyond District 24 middle and high schools. Ferreras-Copeland and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed a comprehensive package of legislation Tuesday that will ensure no individual in city schools, homeless shelters or the correctional systems go without essential menstrual hygiene products they need.
The package of legislation comes less than a week after the Department of Education expanded Ferreras-Copeland’s pilot program that began with a free dispenser at the girls’ room at Corona’s High School for the Arts and Business last September. Attendance jumped 2.4 percent as fewer girls asked to be excused from class throughout the day.
In addition, they introduced a resolution calling upon the state Legislature to end the 4 percent tax on sanitary products, that many call a “women’s penalty.” Items like prescription drugs, sunscreen and condoms are exempt from the tax under the premise that they are essential to a person’s health. The tax adds 88 cents to an $11 pack of 50 tampons in New York State.
“When over half of New York City’s residents experience menstruation, it is crucial to acknowledge their needs and show value and respect for their bodies by making menstrual hygiene products widely and easily available,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “These items are essential as toilet paper, helping us prevent health risks and fulfill our daily activities uninterrupted. No student, homeless individual or inmate should have to jump through hoops, face illness or feel humiliated because they cannot access pads or tampons, Today, we are bringing dignity to this natural process and urging the New York State Senate to do the same.”
The state Assembly voted unanimously to eliminate the sales tax on tampons and pads last Tuesday, but the measure has yet to pass the Senate. Currently, only five states have actively ended the tax on feminine hygiene products, which are considered a medical device by the FDA.
“The pathway to greater equity must include every woman and girl having what she needs during menstruation,” Jill Miller, New York chapter director for Days for Girls International, said. “Practical resources for managing it should be a priority.”
Margo Seibert, the founder of Racket—an organization that provides free feminine hygiene products to homeless shelters around the city—is one of the five women who earlier this month filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Taxation and Finance challenging the tax on feminine hygiene products.
“Thanks to the Councilwoman’s straightforward legislation, alongside an active movement against the ‘tampon tax,’ menstrual equity is now part of the national dialogue,” she said. “On behalf of menstruating humans, it’s about time.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr