Lawmaker’s Proposal Would Use Some Tax Revenue to Fund Free Menstrual Products | Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY — Rather than eliminating the sales tax on menstrual products like many other states, a Duncan lawmaker is proposing a one-of-a-kind approach to tackling period poverty.
State Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, said Oklahoma women currently pay about $3.7 million a year in taxes on vintage goods. Senate Bill 1499 would place $1 million of that amount in a special state Health Department fund so the agency could contract with county health departments, nonprofit organizations nonprofits, local organizations and churches to purchase and distribute free menstrual products to poor Oklahomans.
“No one should have to choose between eating and getting their period in a safe and healthy way,” Garvin said. She said women who don’t have access to menstrual products use items like newspapers and cloths instead, which can lead to serious infections.
The National Alliance for Periodic Supplies said that in 2020, about 847,000 Oklahoma women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 lived in Oklahoma. Of these, 1 in 5 lived in poverty and likely struggled to access period supplies.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, is one of 30 states that continues to tax vintage supplies, the group said.
Garvin said she was working on the bill with medical students in an effort to equalize gender equity. She initially considered following the example of the 20 other states that have banned taxation, but ultimately believes her strategy would have a greater long-term impact. She said the typical woman would save about $40 to $50 a year if the tax were eliminated.
“For most women, it doesn’t really have a huge impact,” Garvin said. “And that doesn’t really help women who desperately need access to menstrual products because $50 will only last you a few months.”
Christen Jarshaw, a medical student who worked with Garvin to craft the measure, said Oklahoma has one of the 10 highest poverty rates in the nation.
“It does not only mean difficulties in accessing food. It also means that it is difficult to access safe menstrual hygiene products,” said Jarshaw.
Jarshaw, of Oklahoma City, said supporters of the bill initially urged Garvin to eliminate the sales tax on menstrual products because removing it is a form of gender equity. Women typically pay for menstrual products, she said, and eliminating the tax could improve access.
But they support the alternative plan because it would have a bigger long-term impact than saving a few dollars a month in taxes, she said.
She said women with a regular cycle pay around $30 a month for menstrual products.
“There are studies that show there is a real impact on people’s mental health whenever they are not able to access menstrual products as they wish,” Jarshaw said. “It leads them to poor outcomes both in terms of personal (and) professional life. They may miss work or school due to lack of access to these necessary commodities. »
A 2020 poll commissioned by Intimina, a feminine care company, found that 46% of women surveyed aged 18-55 said they had to miss school because of a period while 45% had to leave school. work early or cancel plans.
The average woman spends more than $6,000 on menstrual products over her reproductive life, the group found.
Of those surveyed, 72% thought the government should provide free menstrual products in places like high schools and colleges, colleges, workplaces, and hotels.
“We know that continues to be a barrier for a lot of people because they are expensive,” said State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. “They’re taxed at the same rate as a luxury good, so any way we can increase access is a good thing.”
She said Garvin’s strategy is designed to elevate the nonprofits and organizations that can get the products to the people who need them most.
Wrestling with Republican lawmakers’ concerns about cutting too many taxes, Garvin offered a creative strategy to try to address both issues simultaneously, Hicks said.