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Austin endorses tax exemption for menstrual products

Thursday, June 23, 2022 by Veronica Apodaca

City Council members approved a resolution Thursday endorsing the removal of sales tax for menstrual products and diapers. As the resolution states, “Menstrual products and diapers are necessary to daily life for millions of Texans, and these taxes create an undue and inequitable burden on those who purchase them.”

The approval by Council means that city staff will now advocate for the Texas Legislature to officially exempt menstrual products from sales tax. Texas is currently one of 26 states that still charge a sales tax for period products. The resolution’s sponsors hope it will be a step toward reducing period poverty in the state.

Leading up to the resolution, organizations such as the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition have been pushing back against the tax on menstrual products and raising awareness about how Texans are affected by the inability to afford these often costly items. A lack of menstrual products can have significant consequences, including missing school or work and potentially jeopardizing educational or career opportunities. While menstruation is by no means unusual, people may feel uncomfortable speaking out about their experiences with period poverty due to a sense of shame.

“Some of the biggest problems are from a productivity perspective,” Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison told the Austin Monitor. “There’s also sort of the inherent embarrassment and shame and stigma attached to not being able to have access to the health and medical products that you need.”

Harper-Madison and other Council members, including Alison Alter, who proposed the resolution, hope it will help to remove the stigma and make menstrual products more accessible for Texas residents.

“It wouldn’t solve the problem for individuals who are really struggling to afford period products, but it would certainly help,” Council Member Kathie Tovo told the Monitor. “The additional taxes on those products … over the course of several months, over the course of the year, really add up.”

With the resolution not receiving any pushback from others on Council, Harper-Madison is ready to take the movement further.

“The passing that we were able to achieve at the City Council level was easy enough. … That said, what needs to happen to actually put your teeth into it is going to have to happen at the state level,” she said.

At Thursday’s Council meeting, Alter specifically mentioned Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) as a supporter of menstrual equity in the Texas Legislature. Howard is working to bring the issue before the Legislature at its next session, which will begin on Jan. 10, 2023. If removing sales tax for menstrual products is approved at the state level, Texas will join states such as Michigan, New York and Washington in making menstrual products more affordable for their residents.

Reflecting on the positive response she has seen so far, Harper-Madison is optimistic that the cause will continue to gain support as it moves forward.

“This is the kind of issue that doesn’t get bogged down by partisan politics,” she said. “I think we’re able to move forward with everybody recognizing that this is a health issue, and I think it’s the kind of thing that will garner a lot of support.”

Photo by Stilfehler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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