Home Campus Here’s why it may soon be easier to buy tampons

Here’s why it may soon be easier to buy tampons

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House Bill 61 looks to exempt sales tax from menstrual products throughout Ohio. A possible change to Student Senate may make getting tampons and pads easier on campus and in Athens. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

House Bill 61 looks to exempt sales tax from menstrual products throughout Ohio. A possible change to Student Senate may make getting tampons and pads easier on campus and in Athens.

A new piece of state legislation may soon exempt feminine hygiene products, including tampons, pads, panti liners and menstrual cups, from having additional sales tax.

Ohio House Bill 61 was introduced earlier this year, and is the second time a bill like this has been introduced into the Ohio Senate. It was initially introduced as House Bill 272 in the last General Assembly in June 2015 by former Representative Greta Johnson and Representative Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).

In February of this year, it was re-introduced by Representative Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) and Johnson. The bill also has three Republican co-sponsors.

According to Kelly, House Bill 61 has already received quite a bit of support. A recent round of sponsor testimony for the bill included around 2,000 written and physical testimonies from school nurses, business owners and private citizens who felt strongly about the issue.

The Ohio Senate has also shown a past willingness to exempt sales tax from medically necessary items, including House Bill 116, which eliminated sales tax on eyeglasses and contacts.

But Kelly has noticed some concern from supporters of the bill over whether menstrual products will receive the same treatment as other medical products, mainly because of the difficulty many people have with discussing the products themselves.

“This is not a topic that people feel comfortable discussing, and I feel that’s true for both women and men,” Kelly said.

“There’s a certain level of discomfort and embarrassment over having your period, when really it’s a perfect natural bodily function that nobody should be ashamed of. I think that sometimes that is a little bit of a hurdle. And this is something that impacts 50 percent of Ohio’s population every single month.”

Access to these products can be largely impacted by socio-economic issues, particularly in poor regions like Athens.

“We’re a poor county, and accessing menstrual products for people who are already struggling to make ends meet is a big issue,” said Olivia Cobb of the Ohio U Student Senate Women’s Affairs Commission.

“When you want to go about your daily routine while you’re on your period, that’s just a beast that feeds into itself. There are people who — because they don’t have money to get products — can’t keep working to make money to get products, and it’s just this nasty cycle.”

The Period Project

Cobb has frequently worked with The Period Project, and their campus-wide initiative Take a Tampon Leave a Tampon, to further accessibility to menstrual products on campus.

Junior communications major Maddie Sloat, who founded The Period Project in the spring of 2016, has also worked beyond campus to provide menstrual products to community shelters and organizations like Good Works.

Through her work in the community, Sloat has noticed that sometimes both social taboos and economic challenges can interact to make accessibility to menstrual projects even more difficult.

“A lot of the people that need menstrual products rely on donations, and we as a community don’t think to donate these things,” Sloat said.

“It’s not something that’s ever been part of the conversation. So changing people’s minds and showing them that these things are necessary, and donating them are just as important as donating your toothpaste or your soap.”

On Wednesday, Sloat and Hannah Burke, also from The Period Project, will be introducing a possible measure that will ensure that Take a Tampon Leave a Tampon is guaranteed funding at the beginning of every school year, similar to how Take Back the Night and Pride Week have guaranteed funding.

This way, the project will be less dependent on donations and able to expand to donating products to different locations. Burke has previously discussed the idea of donating more menstrual products to prison reentry programs.

Sloat, Burke and other organizers of The Period Project are also planning on going to Columbus to speak to the legislators of HB 61 and have previously campaigned around campus and the community for other iterations of the bill.

Kelly also encourages anyone who is interested in the bill to call their senators, and also to discuss menstruation-related issues more openly in their communities.

“Women need to talk about it and show them why it’s important. It impacts households, it impacts budgets. It doesn’t just impact women, it impacts everyone,” Kelly said.

In terms of potential change that is closer to home, the Student Senate decision for permanent Take a Tampon Leave a Tampon funding will take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Walter 235, and is open to the public.

But regardless of this decision, Cobb hopes that The Period Project — and their work with Student Senate — will help bring more of a discussion to campus.

“This isn’t a women’s issue. It is a body issue, it is an equality issue, and it is a social problem when not everyone is participating at their best,” Cobb said.

“I’m so glad people are talking about these things, and hopefully that talk becomes action and people do things. We’re already breaking some taboos in saying it’s just a little bit of blood, it’s just some uterine tissue.”

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