What You Should Know About the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2019 + How to Support It
On average, a woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life. That’s nearly seven years worth of time that you have to make sure you have a tampon, pad, menstrual cup or period panties—or find a makeshift solution if you don’t.
And those makeshift solutions are more common than you think. While period products are as necessary as soap and toilet paper, not all women have easy access to them. In a study conducted in a major U.S. city, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of women living below the poverty line hadn’t been able to afford tampons or pads to support their monthly cycle in the last year. Often, they had to choose between food and period products—or make do with cloth, rags, toilet paper or paper towels found in public restrooms.
What Is the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2019?
The Menstrual Equity for All Act (ME4A), introduced to Congress by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., strives to eliminate that choice by ensuring free menstrual hygiene products are available to students, low-income individuals, homeless individuals, people who are incarcerated, those working for large employers and in all public federal buildings.
Says Mimi Millard, founder of De Lune period care products and advocate for menstrual equality, “Right now in the U.S., pads and tampons are treated as luxury items. They are taxed; they are not considered by healthcare plans to be a qualified medical expense. And they are certainly NOT provided in schools, workplaces, federal buildings or shelters… Can you imagine if schools didn’t provide their kids with toilet paper?? Yikes. That’s just one example of how menstrual hygiene is completely overlooked in this country.”
And menstrual equity is not just a “woman’s issue,” Mimi says. “It affects everyone, those who menstruate and those who don’t, and it reflects the vitality of our economy and society at large.”
As period activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolfe says in her book Periods Gone Public, “The ability to access these [menstrual health] items affects a person’s freedom to work and study, to be healthy, and to participate in daily life with basic dignity. And if access is compromised, whether by poverty or stigma or lack of education and resources, it is in all of our interests to ensure those needs are met.”
The legislation is getting support through advocacy and lobbying, with a special rally in D.C. on May 8. The nonprofit Platform Women, along with De Lune, are hosting a #ME4A Advocacy Day to encourage Congress to pay attention and to pass this bill in the 2019—2020 session.
What You Can Do to Support Menstrual Equity
Even if you can’t make it to the rally, Mimi says you have a few other options for supporting the bill.
- Post a selfie or video of yourself explaining why you personally care about Menstrual Equity for All, and use the hashtag #ME4ALL. Tag @delunecare and @platformwomen on Instagram and they’ll make sure your voice is amplified.
- Write a letter to your own representative, asking them to vote yes on ME4All. You do not need to be an expert in politics to change policy or an expert in lobbying to change minds. You are an expert in you: the opportunities you’ve had, the struggles you’ve overcome and the barriers you still face. A handwritten note can go a long way with lawmakers. The letter is a chance for lawmakers to learn from you, their constituent, in your own words. Some pro tips from Platform:
- Let your representative know they need to listen to you. Are you a voter and/or student in their district? Do you have other connections to the district?
- Next, tell them why you care—that’s your story. Why do you show up and speak out on menstrual health policy? Why are you taking the time to write this letter? Ask them to vote yes on ME4All.
- Close by letting them know you plan to stay active on this issue until change is realized.
- Finally, when addressing the envelope, refer to the lawmaker as “The Honorable (name).”
- Sign up here to be notified by Platform of future lobby and advocacy days.
“Think of what we’d gain as a society if half of us no longer had to expend valuable energy on privately worrying about monthly menstrual health needs,” says Mimi. “More time spent focusing on education, self-determination, progress, and livelihood. Bleeding or not, let’s all come together to make menstrual equity the law of the land.”
Interested in more information on period equity? Read more about the pink tax, or how two women are striving to increase access to period products worldwide.