Women shouldn’t be taxed for being women.

Via: Dallas Morning News

By: Dena L. Jackson, PhD

You may have heard that young women in developing countries miss school due to not having access to menstrual supplies. Would you be surprised if I told you that was happening right here in our state?

“Period poverty” — the inadequate access to affordable menstrual supplies that leads to school absences, missed work and hygiene problems — can demoralize women and impede their economic security. It’s high time we stopped punishing women for having periods.

This legislative session, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to do just that by voting to repeal the “pink tax,” thus eliminating the more than $28 million in feminine hygiene product taxes — one might even call them fines — levied on Texas women and girls each year.

Although taxes on period products ring up at just a few dollars a month per person, every single penny counts if you’re one of the 2 million Texas women and girls our research indicates have recently experienced poverty. For all women, the amount of menstrual supply taxes paid over a lifetime represents a noteworthy portion of her survival budget — money that would be best left in the pockets of Texas residents, not the piggy bank of a state with one of the world’s largest economies.

If you’re still skeptical about the need for equitable period policy, consider the following.

A 2019 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 64% of low-income women surveyed struggled to buy period products during the previous year, and 21% reported having this problem monthly.

In a 2021 study, State of the Period, nearly 40% of students reported not being able to do their best schoolwork “often or sometimes” because of insufficient access to products. A 2019 version of the same study found that 84% of teens have missed class or know someone who has due to problems with menstrual supplies.

Last summer, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar came out in favor of pink tax repeal, stating that “Texas can absorb this lost revenue easily, but for countless Texas women, this will mean significant savings in their personal budgets over time. This is a small amount of money relative to the overall revenue outlook for Texas.”

A bipartisan-authored bill eliminating menstrual product tax has been introduced by state Rep. Donna Howard during every legislative session since 2017. So far this session, the bill was passed by the House, but has yet to be acted on by the Senate.

This session, lawmakers also have an option in the form of Senate Bill 379, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Joan Huffman, the Senate Finance Committee chair. This proposed legislation eliminates taxes for tampons, sanitary pads, menstrual cups and similar products. It carries the endorsement of the governor, the lieutenant governor, and every female senator.

In other words: Menstrual product tax repeal is an easy “yes” and an easy win for Texas lawmakers, who should not keep missing the opportunity to do right by Texas women and girls.

A fundamental principle at Texas Women’s Foundation is the ripple effect — the belief that investing in women’s economic security equals a win for everyone, because women re-invest personal budget increases into their families and communities.

To power this ripple effect, we must insist on policy that helps women pursue education, carve out careers, and build savings — and that includes policy that increases access to affordable period supplies.

Nearly half of U.S. states have already repealed taxation of menstrual products. It’s time for Texas to join the club. I urge all Texans to join us with a pledge of support. And I urge Texas lawmakers to end gender-based taxation this session.

Dena L. Jackson is chief strategy officer at the Texas Women’s Foundation. She wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.

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