Congress Must Seize This Menstrual Equity Moment

In today’s treacherous landscape for reproductive health, one policy priority has skirted partisan rancor: periods. 

The fight to take down the “tampon tax” in the U.S. continues to capture headlines and captivate lawmakers and the public alike across the country. Legislation to provide menstrual access for students and those who are incarcerated is becoming increasingly popular in red and blue states alike. Even President Trump—yes, the very same “blood coming out of her wherever” POTUS—came out on the period-positive side when he signed into law the FIRST STEP Act, a broad criminal justice reform bill that requires menstrual access for incarcerated women in federal prisons. This marked a first for Capitol Hill—and it sent a major signal to other local, state and national leaders about the urgency of period policy.

Now, the fight for menstrual equity is taking center stage in Congress.

The sweeping Menstrual Equity For All Act (#ME4ALL) would make menstrual products more affordable and accessible for women and girls across the country. (via Rep. Meng on Twitter)

New legislation introduced today by the movement’s fiercest champion, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), uses existing levers for change within federal law to make menstrual products more affordable and accessible.

The Menstrual Equity For All Act (#ME4ALL) is sweeping in its reach. The law would enable states to use federal grant funds to provide students nationwide with menstrual products in schools; ensure that those incarcerated in federal, state and local facilities, including immigration detention centers, have access to pads and tampons; allow homeless assistance providers to use grant funds for shelter necessities to purchase menstrual products; require Medicaid to cover the cost of menstrual products; allow individuals to use their own pre-tax dollars from flexible spending accounts to purchase menstrual products; direct employers at business with 100 or more employees to provide menstrual products in workplace restrooms; and mandate that all public federal buildings, including buildings on the Capitol campus, provide menstrual products in the restrooms.

Every single provision of this legislation is a matter of basic common sense and decency—and every Member of Congress and presidential candidate should publicly support it.

The movement for menstrual equity is making waves across the country and around the world. (We even won an Oscar!) It’s obvious that the belief that the ability to address and destigmatize menstruation is at the heart of what it means to participate fully and equitably in our society is exceedingly common—and it’s a powerful shared value with the power to transform society.

In the current political landscape, our leaders must commit to an affirmative agenda—policies to be for, not just against—and menstrual equity is the one that everyone should be for. This is about standing up for gender parity. It’s about seizing an opportunity to foster economic fairness. It’s about fostering educational opportunity

This country’s polarized political leaders have already shown that they can grasp the importance of menstrual equity. Now it’s time for Congress to push this cause over the finish line—and demonstrate, in the process, just how powerful political action on periods can be.

About

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is a lawyer, fierce advocate for and frequent writer on issues of gender, feminism and politics in America. Dubbed the “architect of the U.S. campaign to squash the tampon tax” by Newsweek, she is the author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, which was lauded by Gloria Steinem as “the beginning of liberation for us all,” and is a contributor to Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth.