New York City Might Provide Free Tampons In Schools, Jails & Shelters Soon, If This Bill Is Signed Into Law

There are a lot of extra expenses associated with being born with a uterus, among them the need to buy tampons (if you're not a fan of free bleeding, that is). That's why it's so very cool that New York City might soon be providing free tampons at schools, jails, and shelters — all places with people who need tampons and where lots of those people might have trouble paying for them. Because everyone who needs period supplies should be able to get them, without worrying about how to afford it. The bill will become law if Mayor Bill DeBlasio signs it, which is expected to happen within the month.

The New York City Council approved the measure by unanimous vote on Tuesday this week, not long after their vote to ban sales tax on pads and tampons. The new policy will greatly expand the current Department of Corrections policy regarding pads and tampons. Previously, the Department of Corrections provided a limited number of pads to inmates — a number that advocates say is inadequate — and no free tampons; under the new policy, anyone in custody for over 48 hours will be provided with pads or tampons upon request.

Under the new law, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services will also be required to provide pads and tampons to women in temporary shelters, and girls in foster care or juvenile detention. And the Department of Education will be required to install dispensers for free period supplies in the girls' restrooms of all public middle and high schools — around 800 schools in total. In addition, food pantries and after-school programs will now be allowed to submit pads and tampons as budget expenses.

All told, the policy will positively impact several hundred thousand girls and women.

Ensuring that girls, women, and uterus-having people have access to period supplies is a global problem, especially in developing countries where lack of access to pads and tampons is a major impediment to girls' education. But it's also an issue right here in the United States, where the cost of purchasing sanitary supplies can be a hardship for many people — especially if they're, you know, still children, or homeless, or unable to work because they're in custody. Buying pads and tampons can cost a woman over $100 a year. For low income women, that means sometimes making a choice between period supplies and other necessities.

Speaking on Tuesday, Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who has been advocating providing tampons in schools for some time now, said, "Periods have been stigmatized for far too long. Today the Council will help end that stigma. Young women will no longer miss class because they don't have a pad or tampon."

The policy will go into effect on Jan. 1 of 2017, provided Mayor DeBlasio signs it into law.