Bleeding women dry: The problem with Kentucky’s “pink tax”

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Bleeding women dry: The problem with Kentucky’s “pink tax”

Payton Carns

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It’s time to have the talk: Periods are expensive. Every month, women get their periods. It isn’t something that can be controlled, it just happens and girls have to deal with it. However, even though a pad or tampon is a necessity for every woman to control their flow, a sales tax along with a “value-added tax” of around 6% on top of it is placed on products women use on their periods in 35 states. It is unfair to the over one million women in Kentucky that must buy or use period products to have pay an extra amount for things they use for nearly all their lives. All taxes on these products should be exempted as they are extremely important for all women in preserving their finances, well-being and health.

Kentucky Representative Attica Scott introduced HB236 into the house in the 2018 regular session. This bill’s purpose was to get rid of the Pink Tax, specifically on feminine hygiene and menstrual products, in the state of Kentucky. The consensus conducted by the house in the fiscal note on the bill said Kentucky is making 9 million dollars a year by taxing these feminine hygiene products.

“That’s money that lower-income women or people living in poverty will have spent on other needs than menstrual products,” said Scott. “So it’s not really a loss to the state.”

According to the National Women’s Law Center, 25 million women in the United States live in poverty. In Kentucky’s population, 20% of women live below the poverty line. That is almost one million women getting an annual family income of 24,850 dollars or fewer. While the money lost for one person with this tax is only in the single digits, when that is multiplied in families with multiple women making less than 25,000 dollars a year and mixed with providing adequate food and shelter for their families, there are multiple effects on women that can stem from it.

Less access to safe, high-quality tampons and pads leads to women getting creative or buy the bare minimum quality tampons. While lawmakers argue that this is fine- that women can live with it- that may not necessarily be the case. As more and more studies are done on Toxic Shock Syndrome, we are learning that tampons with higher absorbency can increase the risk of it because it can dry out the vaginal wall faster, according to the University of Washington Medical Center. This is why brands, while more expensive, are working to make organic tampons which are healthier and safer for their users.  Forcing women to buy lower quality tampons and increase the odds of getting a possibly life-threatening disease just because of their income is unfair. Not to mention the risk of irritation and infection to the vagina using dryer, more sensitive tampons and increase in UTIs as a result. Using the wrong tampons can also disrupt your hormone levels and increase the chance of infertility.

That is why for the well being of 1 million women living in poverty and all women in Kentucky, we need to make sure everyone has access to safe and healthy tampons, and the first step is getting the unnecessary 6% tax on these products removed. Not only are they a necessity— something all women use— but the tax has a huge financial impact on impoverished families of women. Kentucky’s 9 million dollars they make every year from the tax on menstrual products can be spread elsewhere and help families in poverty with their needs. It is important to contact your local and state legislators and congressman and let them know you want change. You can go to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials to get links on how to get in touch with your local, state, and federal leaders in Congress. Additionally, you can look for local legislators that are working to eliminate this tax and support and donate to their campaigns. If you want to make a smaller footprint but still support the cause, buy your period products from companies that don’t support this tax and are working to end it. The war against women continues to brew in Congress and without change, more and more women will be subject to health risks with inadequate care of their reproductive system— and taking away the unnecessary tax is a good place to start.