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New York State Public Schools Will Supply Teen Girls With Free Menstrual Products

This is another step toward menstrual equity for New York.

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the state government will now require that free menstrual products are provided in restrooms for people in grades six through 12. A similar piece of legislation was passed in 2016, requiring that New York City public schools provide menstrual products to students, but this is the first legislation of its kind to be passed statewide.

“Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families,” wrote Cuomo in a tweet announcing the new rule.

The cost of menstrual products is hard to understate. Cuomo also eliminated the “tampon tax” in 2016, exempting menstrual products from the state’s sales tax. That change alone was estimated to have saved New York women $10 million a year. Currently, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have also eliminated taxes on menstrual products, but none have gone as far as to offer them for free.

Still, taxes and fees on menstrual products still exist even in states that are regularly regarded as left-leaning, such as Maine and California. Back in 2016, California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia pushed for a piece of legislation that would eliminate the tax. It passed in both houses of the California State Legislature, but was later vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor Jerry Brown. In late 2017, Garcia successfully helped pass California Assembly Bill 10 (AB-10), which requires that a “public school maintaining any combination of classes from grade 6 to grade 12” is required “to stock 50% of the school’s restrooms with feminine hygiene products.”

While it was considered a step in the right direction, AB-10 is not as sweeping as some would have hoped. The new law only applies to schools where at least 40 percent of the school’s students fall below the poverty line. That’s only about 4,000 of the 10,477 public schools in the state of California.

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