By Carlotta Mohamed
U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter July 6 to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan requesting that he allow House offices to be reimbursed for feminine hygiene products purchased for congressional staff and office visitors.
The lawmakers sent the letter in the wake of Maloney’s office being denied reimbursement for the products.
In their letter, Meng and Maloney ask Ryan to provide free feminine hygiene products in all bathrooms that are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Feminine hygiene products are a basic and essential need for women,” said Meng. “All women deserve access to them, and that includes women who visit and work on Capitol Hill. It is time for the House to make these necessary items more accessible to women. I urge Speaker Ryan to do the right thing and I eagerly await his reply.”
“Making feminine hygiene products available to those who need it is a simple change that bring sanitation and relief to thousands of congressional employees, visitors, and members of Congress alike,” the lawmakers said in their letter.
Maloney said Ryan should make it clear that women who visit or work on Capitol Hill will have their needs met and that the House is a welcoming place for everyone.
“Women have been treated as second-class citizens for far too long. We have an opportunity to fix that problem here in the House, and the speaker should take it,” said Maloney.
In addition to the letter, Meng is presently sponsoring the Menstrual Equity for All Act (H.R. 972) introduced in February 2017, which contains five provisions to help different populations of women and girls get better access to feminine hygiene products.
“Menstrual hygiene products are not ubiquitous and cheap, despite what popular culture would have us believe,” Meng said in a statement. “Although most women use these products, many struggle to afford or access these essential items. This is unacceptable. Menstrual hygiene products are a necessity for most women, yet they are treated as luxury items.”
Meng is also the author of Menstrual Products Right to Know Act (H.R. 2416) introduced in May 2017, which aims to make menstrual hygiene products safer by requiring manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in these products.
The congresswoman has also convinced FEMA to add feminine hygiene products to the list of items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds, and due to her efforts, in August 2017, the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to provide female inmates with menstrual products free of charge.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha