New York City is known for many firsts, and free tampons could soon be added to that list. Lawmakers late Tuesday backed a proposal that would require women in public schools, homeless shelters and prisons in the city to have access to free tampons and feminine hygiene products, putting it on track to be the first city in the U.S. to do so.
City Council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland championed the measure, arguing that women’s bodies deserve dignity. “Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper and should be treated as basic bathroom supplies,” she said in a statement.
The vote Tuesday passed 49-0, and now New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will consider the proposal. If implemented, feminine hygiene health products would become available free of charge for approximately 300,000 girls in schools and 23,000 women in homeless shelters, the Associated Press reported. The proposal would cost the city approximately $2.5 million a year. The city’s annual budget is $82 billion.
While many public schools and shelters already provide feminine hygiene products, advocates have argued there is often an insufficient supply or female students are forced to make long, potentially embarrassing trips to a nurse’s office instead of using dispensers in bathrooms.
Lawmakers in New York state voted last month to eliminate sales tax on feminine hygiene products, joining a growing number of states that are slashing financial barriers for health products. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the tax exemption into law.
New York City is only the beginning for the movement toward free feminine hygiene products, as lawmakers have vowed to push for policies across the state.
“I am going to take up this cause around the state so that those women can have the same access women in the city will now have,” New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said. “Women are not ashamed to say the word 'period.' It’s time to take the veil off these things.”