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Zoey Freedman: Free tampons would slow flow of gender inequality

By Zoey Freedman

July 20, 2015 7:04 a.m.

Editor’s note: This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies.

To most government officials, feminine hygiene products are a luxury item. But, every day, women are being poisoned by their own bodies because they lack access to even the most essential health products.

Meanwhile, most men have no problem getting covered for pills that will help them get a boner.

Although still greatly outnumbered and underpaid compared to their male counterparts, women have made so much progress. Yet inequality still lies in the most basic areas of human well-being. Women are still facing unequal treatment when it comes to health care and are paying out of pocket for necessary female health products, particularly tampons and pads.

It’s about time that the federal government recognizes that even the most basic health care needs to start subsidizing the cost of tampons and pads for women, or covering the cost completely. This is only fair, since health insurance is supposed to cover the major aspects of a person’s health. But more importantly, cutting the cost of these products is a crucial step in normalizing menstruation within society, and it provides women who may not have access to these resources the opportunity to feel clean and comfortable during their period.

Access to tampons would not only allow for healthy living during that time of the month, but also every day of the year. The provision of tampons, or at least a subsidy, would give many women, especially those living on the streets or living paycheck to paycheck, access to these necessary items and the ability to change them often without the fear of running out. Not changing a tampon frequently enough can lead to complications like toxic shock syndrome or blood poisoning, among other things, which can lead to permanent damage in women’s lives.

Aside from some forms of birth control or medical complications, nothing will stop a woman’s period. It’s a natural part of having a uterus that just can’t be helped.

Health care currently covers services such as sexually transmitted infection testing, birth control, abortion and even access to erectile dysfunction treatments such as penile implants.

Although erectile dysfunction is a problem, it is not one that all men are inherently born with. Menstruation, on the other hand, is something almost every woman deals with at some point in her life. It’s a bit ridiculous that surgeries for sexual needs are covered before everyday feminine hygiene products.

Once necessary items needed to maintain feminine wellness are made attainable, public amenities outside of health centers and doctors’ offices should join in normalizing access to feminine products. Public facilities such as restrooms, schools and theaters should provide tampons and pads to women who need them, when they need them.

Having these products in public facilities would also provide an easy way for women living on the streets to access these products. Homeless women and women with extremely low income are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to feminine products. Tampons are pricey for any woman, but women who can hardly afford to buy food can’t afford to buy a $10 box of tampons, leaving them to choose between food or feeling comfortable when on their period.

Free or subsidized tampons through health care services can ensure that women at least have the right to a happy and healthy lifestyle, especially when that time of the month rolls around.

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