While it’s clear that the Trump administration hates girls and women and will do everything it can to violate our rights, local lawmakers are doing what they can to make life more normal and equitable for girls—particularly those from marginalized communities. In California, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia has a passion for making sure that women in the state have access to feminine hygiene and menstrual products. Known as the “Tampon Queen,” she was instrumental in recently getting AB 10 passed, a bill that provides menstrual products to low-income, school-aged girls.
A proposal to make such products tax-free in the Golden State was vetoed last year. This year a similar bill didn’t even make it out of committee. But the lawmaker from Bell Gardens [Garcia] finally found victory in AB 10, which requires lower-income schools to provide menstrual products to girls at no charge in half the bathrooms on a given campus.
This is an issue many people don’t think about, but it’s one that deeply impacts girls who are poor. When menstrual products are not easily accessible, girls may miss school. In addition to the mental and emotional stress of trying to cope without pads or tampons, missing school can have a negative effect on girls’ academic performance and future life chances.
Sadly, this is a global phenomenon and not limited to countries in the developing world. This same issue has been reported in the UK, New Zealand, and Canada. While assumptions may lead us to believe that this is an urban and/or rural phenomenon, it also impacts Native American girls living on reservations. In short, there are nearly no poor girls across the country and world who are not touched by this.
Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, called it “landmark legislation for California.” She said New York City schools have a pilot program that mirrors AB 10. She said providing the products free to lower-income girls encourages them to come to school, feel normal and participate in extracurricular activities. That, in turn, increases their chances of graduating, going to college and landing good jobs.
“It’s a great measure of equity,” she said. “The humiliation of poverty runs deep. This isn’t going to solve the fact that a girl growing up in poverty is treated differently in so many ways. But it’s one little thing we can do to make sure girls feel welcome at school.”
While she’s helped to secure this victory in California, Garcia’s work is far from finished. Her next steps are to once again try to eliminate the tax on menstrual products in the state. After all, why should girls and women pay a tax on something that is completely natural and necessary? While there are only about seven states that allow menstrual products to be sold tax-free, Viagra isn’t taxed in any state except Illinois. Sure, it’s true that Viagra is a drug which requires a prescription. which is why it isn’t taxed. But let’s remember that Viagra isn’t at all necessary to live. These products are essential to women and girls’ health and well-being.
It’s a good thing lawmakers like Garcia know that and are working to make sure that girls have access to what they need be happy, healthy, and thriving.