Congress

This Democrat wants free tampons and pads available in all federal buildings

Rep. Grace Meng’s push for access to menstrual products includes schools and prisons

Rep. Grace Meng proposed a measure to require all public federal buildings, including those on the Capitol campus, to provide free menstrual products. (Katherine Tully-McManus/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Grace Meng introduced a bill Tuesday that would require all public federal buildings, including those on the Capitol campus, to provide free pads and tampons in the restrooms.

The bill, called the Menstrual Equity For All Act of 2019, would give states the option to use federal grant funding to provide students with free menstrual products in schools, and it would require Medicaid to cover the cost of menstrual products for recipients. The proposal would also amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to require the Department of Labor to issue a rule requiring private employers, with not less than 100 employees, to provide free menstrual hygiene products for their employees.

Meng sponsored a similar measure in 2017.

At an event to announce the bill’s introduction, Meng sported a red pin that said: “Congress. It’s time for you to care about feminine care. Period.”

This is just the latest proposal in the New York Democrat’s push for increased access and equity surrounding menstrual products. She has previously sponsored legislation to establish a tax credit, a tax exclusion, and requirements that apply to the purchase or distribution of menstrual hygiene products. Another proposal from Meng would have required menstrual products to include a list of ingredients on the label.

“Access to safe and affordable menstrual products is a basic need and a healthcare right for over half of our population,” Meng said.

Earlier this year, Meng joined with fellow New York Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida to ask for clarity on policies within the House on whether tampons and other feminine hygiene products can be purchased with official office allowances.

In February Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, released guidance instructing that menstrual products be stocked in the House office supply store for purchase with Members’ Representational Allowance funds.

Roll Call found menstrual products available in the Longworth Office Supply store Tuesday afternoon. 

So far, there has not been a parallel push from Senators to allow the purchase of tampons and pads with office funds and provide them to staff and visitors. Meng’s latest proposal would widen access to pads and tampons beyond members offices, making products available at no cost in restrooms across Capitol Hill including House and Senate office buildings.

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