‘It Was a Decision Between a Few Cans of Soup or a $7 Box of Tampons’ | KBIA

‘It Was a Decision Between a Few Cans of Soup or a $7 Box of Tampons’

Apr 18, 2019

Jane Kielhofner and Jacey Schank are both on the executive board of a University of Missouri menstrual health student group called Period @ Mizzou. The group is focused on discussing and advocating for menstrual health, and is part of a larger national organization.

Jane and Jacey have known each other for many years, and they spoke about their organization, and why it’s important. They also spoke about some legislative changes they are working toward like House Bill 747, which aims to change "the laws regarding the taxation of feminine hygiene products, diapers, and incontinence products.”

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

Jane Kielhofner: Period @ Mizzou is an organization focused on menstrual health and menstrual hygiene. We try to destigmatize the topic in order to make it more accessible and affordable to buy products and also address policy, educate the public about this really taboo topic that is part of 50 percent of the population’s health.

Jacey Schank: So, just with talking with some people, we realized what an issue access to menstrual health products was in our community and something that we all kind of took for granted. We really, you know, think about the own stigmas that we have internalized with our periods, and how we didn’t want to talk about them in public and we really sort of push against that.

So, we decided it was important to have these conversations and that we could use our position of privilege to really advocate for people who can’t afford these products and make them more accessible.

Jane: One of our members of exec worked a campus job. It was minimum wage, and one of her coworkers has two children and had spoken to our friend about how every month it was a decision between a few cans of soup or a $7 to $10 box of tampons or pads.

That really showed all of us how, even though, this amount of money may seem small to several people it really is a monthly burden and the tampon tax in Missouri makes that even less accessible. Which is why we are advocating for a bill that is hoping to repeal that tax.

Jacey: So, Missouri is one of the majority of states that has a tax on menstrual hygiene products as a luxury, whereas, things like Viagra and food are not taxed that way.

So, what this bill is aiming to do is reduce the sales tax to the level of food. So, it wouldn’t do away with it entirely, but it would reduce it to the level of other necessities. This bill includes menstrual hygiene products, diapers and things like adult diapers and other hygiene products.

Jane: So, we are really excited to see that bill continue on.

Jacey: One thing that has really been brought to our attention is how common this issue is. Recently the federal government mandated that tampons and pads be provided in all federal women’s prisons but that’s not the case for state prisons, local jails, schools, homeless shelters.

There are so many situations where people who menstruate aren’t given the opportunity to have hygiene products. That really holds people back. So, one thing I have thought a lot about is young girls in poverty who aren’t able to go to school during their period because they don’t have they hygiene products necessary to be confident and know that they aren’t going to bleed through and be embarrassed at school. That, you know, hinders their ability to learn and is so damaging for the future.

We recognize this isn’t an overnight process, this is ongoing, which is why we really hope this legislation – that’s in the State House at the moment – works its way through. There is currently a sponsor of the bill. We are hoping it will bet bipartisan support because it really is as common-sense thing. It doesn’t cost the state very much money. It helps out low income people. It helps out people with diapers, as well as menstrual hygiene, and people who have incontinence issues with bladder control and other issues.

It’s really helping populations that need it the most while it’s costing the state very very little, and it’s something I think everyone can get behind.

This piece was reported and produced by MaKenzie Bagley.