Opinion: Period Poverty Awareness Week: It’s Time to Make Period Products Affordable in Indiana

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

PERIOD POVERTY AWARENESS WEEK: IT’S TIME TO MAKE PERIOD PRODUCTS AFFORDABLE IN INDIANA 

By State Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis)

Word count: 444

Every woman has felt the panic of getting their period and realizing they don’t have any products on hand. It’s that sinking feeling when you check your backpack at school and find you forgot to bring a pad, or open your purse at a restaurant and remember you left your tampons in another bag. This universal experience often leads to asking strangers for help in the bathroom. However, many women and girls in Indiana are constantly unprepared because they can’t afford period products.

Indiana has one of the highest tax rates on menstrual products in the nation at 7%. Currently, period products are considered a “luxury good” while items like candy bars and Viagra are exempt from sales tax. As a result, one in five Hoosier girls struggle to afford feminine hygiene products.

Getting your period is not a luxury. Women have no choice in the matter, and products like tampons and pads are essential for daily life. No woman or girl should face the stress of going through a period without access to these necessary items.

Women in Indiana spend around $5 million in sales tax on menstrual products each year. This amounts to about 0.02% of the state’s annual budget but significantly impacts women’s personal finances. Removing this tax burden would be marginal for the state’s revenue but substantial for women, allowing them to keep more of their earnings or spend on other things.

Since my election to the legislature in November 2016, I’ve worked to eliminate this unfair tax. I authored bills in 2020 and 2021 to create a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products, but neither was granted a hearing. I also offered amendments with the same provision in 2017 and 2022, both of which were struck down. Efforts to remove the “pink tax” have been ongoing in the legislature for nearly a decade. I inherited this fight from my predecessor, former State Rep. Christina Hale, who offered an amendment to remove this tax in January of 2016.  In the last three years, Senator Shelli Yoder has offered this language as well. 

In March of this year, Indiana was close to finally addressing period poverty when the House of Representatives passed a provision to exempt female hygiene products from sales tax. However, just four days later, on International Women’s Day, Republican lawmakers removed that language from the bill in a closed-door meeting.

It is long overdue for Indiana to join the majority of states and exempt menstrual products from sales tax. These items are not luxuries; they are essential.

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