A new bill could lift the financial burden of menstrual products for women in California.
Assembly Bill 31, introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, could exempt all menstrual products, including menstrual sponges, menstrual cups, tampons and sanitary napkins from the state sales tax, commonly known as the tampon tax, and increase the accessibility of these necessary products for women.
Along with Garcia, California Senators Ling Ling Chang R-Diamond Bar and Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, are two supporters and principal co-authors of the bill. Both senators believe the bill could be a step forward to ending gender discrimination in the state, and hopefully the rest of the world.
“By scrapping this tax, we are putting money back into the pockets of California women, increasing access to an important health product, and ensuring our tax code is equitable. We need to fight against this targeted tax on women,” Chang said.
Health items, such as walkers, medical identification tags and prescription medicine like Viagra, are currently all exempt from the state sales tax since they are categorized as health necessities by the California tax code.
Although menstrual cycles are a daily part of a woman’s life, menstrual products are not yet classified as health necessities but only as medical devices.
Garcia’s spokesperson Teala Schaff said that although menstrual products should be free, eliminating the state sales tax could easily make them more affordable.
“This tax is the only gender specific tax in the California tax code,” Schaff said. “Periods are contributing to the General Fund for California which is not only unequal but can be a financial struggle for many women.”
Girls in the United States begin to menstruate at the age of 12, and women can continue to menstruate until they are 50 years old.
On average, a woman has 450 periods throughout her lifetime and spends about $4,800 on menstrual products.
As of now, 12 million girls and women in the United States live under the poverty line and for those living from paycheck to paycheck, menstrual products are often out of reach.
Tania Ruedas, sophomore political science and speech communications double major, said the menstrual cycle is an ordinary part of a woman’s life, and menstrual products should not be seen as anything other than a necessity.
“Female products are not a luxury and should not be taxed as one,” Ruedas said. “Removing the sales tax from these necessary products that women use their whole life will allow us to live our lives to the fullest.”
Ruedas said menstrual products are as important for survival as food products, which are currently exempt from the sales tax.
“Food is not taxed and I need that as much as I need tampons or pads during my menstrual cycle,” Ruedas said.
Ruedas said the capitalism behind products, such as menstrual products, is a reason as to why bills like AB-31 have not been frequently passed before.
“The downside of the bill would be for the companies of the menstrual products that will not get as much as money as they did before,” Ruedas said. “But I think that is fair if that means women will get more access to these products for their period, something that is out of their control.”
California could lose about $20 million per year in sales tax revenue if the bill passes, according to Garcia’s office. However, due to the so-called multiplier effect, the state could possibly lose less than $20 million.
The idea of the multiplier effect is similar to a ripple effect, where one person’s spending becomes another person’s income. If a woman spends her sales tax savings elsewhere, possibly on an item that does have the state sales tax, then that could reduce the amount of sales tax revenue lost in a year.
Melissa Cerritos-Bonilla, junior accounting major, said menstrual product companies could still find a way to make the same amount of money even after the sales tax is removed by adjusting the price tag of their products.
“Companies can raise the price of their products once the sales tax is removed,” Bonilla said. “It’s normal for prices to rise due to inflation rates but not drastically, especially if the rise in price covers the whole sales tax.”
Bonilla added that many bills similar to AB-31 are authored by men and not often represented by women like Garcia.
“Many men do not understand the necessity of menstrual products,” Bonilla said. “Education is not very open in teaching both genders about this concept, which is why many bills like this one are either easily ignored or never considered.”
Dallas Hurst, sophomore biology major, said that although removing the sales tax does not seem like much at first, it could save women hundreds of dollars in the long run.
“Sales tax definitely adds up over the course of a whole lifetime,” Hurst said. “Whether it is 10 cents or $2, it adds up.”
Many people may see this bill as a loophole for women to get what they want by changing the prices of menstrual products, which is why bills like AB 31 have not been openly passed before, Hurst said.
“I think people are hesitant to automatically pass the bill because many may think this is just a form of women bribing, but it’s not,” Hurst said. “Periods are going to be with women for the rest of their lives and menstrual products will always be a necessity.”
As of now, Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and Ohio have all removed the tampon tax from menstrual products and support Garcia’s bill.
Alondra Campos can be reached at email@example.com.