Assemblymember Rosenthal Unveils Trio of Bills to Increase Access to Feminine Hygiene Products for Vulnerable Populations in New York

May 12, 2017

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) announced the introduction of three bills (A.347, A.585, A.588) to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost for menstruating individuals in schools, homeless shelters and state & local correctional facilities in New York.

“As a national war against women’s healthcare is waged, the State must do everything in its power to ensure low-income women and girls have comprehensive access to feminine hygiene products,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan). Let me be clear: menstruating is not a luxury; it is a biological phenomenon that necessitates the use of products that are costly. However, month after month, women are forced to swallow their pride and sacrifice their well-being when deciding whether to purchase tampons or put food on the table.”

Feminine hygiene products cost several hundred dollars per year, which can be an insurmountable financial barrier for some women and children. As a result of the steep costs, some menstruating individuals are forced to use makeshift products to stem their menstrual flow.

In schools, access to tampons, sanitary napkins and other feminine hygiene products is necessary to ensure that students can participate in classes and extracurricular activities without interruption. Bill A.347 creates a pilot program to provide free-of-charge feminine hygiene products to middle and high school students at selected low-income districts throughout the state.

"I am proud to be a woman and I am fortunate to have strong women in my life, but approximately every 28 days my self-esteem is tested. The ability to be able to access pads and tampons is vital to get through the school day,” said Danielle Wilkins, 11th grade student at Averill Park High School in Averill Park, NY.

Women and girls in homeless shelters currently have limited or no access to feminine hygiene products, often forcing them to use paper bags, wads of toilet paper, or scraps of cloth to stem their menstrual flow, which can cause serious infections. Bill A.585 requires shelters to provide feminine hygiene products for homeless women and girls at no cost.

“Women staying in homeless shelters lose a lot – their privacy, their ability to make their own rules, their sense of security. They shouldn’t also have to lose their dignity when it comes to their monthly period. Feminine hygiene products should be readily available, as natural and common as toilet paper. This is the philosophy and practice at our Domestic Violence Shelter and other residential programs,” comments Kathleen Magee, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Equinox, a local Capital Regional provider of services to victims of domestic violence. “We applaud Assemblywoman Rosenthal for her commitment to seeing that this most basic and essential need is met without compromising the dignity of women who are already in difficult circumstances.”

Many correctional facilities across New York State do not supply incarcerated women with a sufficient amount of feminine hygiene products. An incarcerated woman typically needs to allocate an entire week’s wages to purchase one box of tampons, which may not be sufficient for women with longer or heavier periods. Bill A.588 curtails this problem by requiring correctional facilities provide these products at no cost.

“Providing incarcerated women with sanitary napkins and tampons is not just a matter of personal hygiene, it is a matter of human dignity and equality,” explained Karen Murphy, Executive Director of Prisoners Legal Services NY. “Many women need both products to adequately manage their periods, but in New York State’s prisons they are only provided with sanitary napkins. As such, only women who have enough money can afford to purchase tampons. This is wrong, ill-advised and discriminatory. Assemblywoman Rosenthal’s bill, requiring that feminine hygiene products be provided at no cost to individuals incarcerated in state and local correctional facilities, remedies this situation.”

Assemblymember Rosenthal also joined Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, to present Equinox, Inc., a local Albany shelter, with feminine hygiene product donations received from the Caucus’ “Dignity Drive.” The Caucus collected 10 boxes of personal hygiene products for homeless women, including tampons, pads, toothbrushes, soaps, and other similar items.

“Access to healthcare is a controversial issue throughout the country, but it is unfathomable to believe that a low-income girl or woman is not worthy of something as basic as pads or tampons once a month,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “New York State has the potential to level the playing field between the haves and have-nots in the most basic sense, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in making these bills a reality for women across the State.”

“Making feminine hygiene products readily available helps provide dignity to women across the state,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo. “These bills would ensure that women do not have to worry about whether or not they can afford them. I appreciate Assemblymember Rosenthal’s leadership on this issue and will be doing all I can to advocate for this important health necessity for all New York women.”

In 2016, Assemblymember Rosenthal passed legislation which exempted feminine hygiene products from State and local sales tax.