Another year, another push to make period products more accessible in Kentucky

By: - January 4, 2024 3:48 pm

Citing the need for “menstrual justice,” Kentucky Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, filed legislation to remove the 6% sales tax from period products such as pads and tampons. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)

FRANKFORT — Kentucky is one of 21 states that taxes period products, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies, but several Republican and Democrat lawmakers want to change that. 

Period product tax is sometimes called the “pink tax” and advocates for removing it say the products shouldn’t cost more because they aren’t optional expenses. 

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said Thursday she plans to file legislation to remove sales tax from menstrual products. A similar bill filed Tuesday by Republican Rep. Kim Banta of Ft. Mitchell also proposes removing sales and use tax from period products. 

Willner’s goes a step further by also requiring public schools serving grades 6 through 12 to provide at least one kind of free period product to their students in at least half their bathrooms. 

If it passed, it would go into effect in August. Wilner proposed similar legislation last session, alongside Republican co-sponsors, but that bill did not advance

During a press conference discussing her bill Thursday, Willner said that she’s had “productive conversations with colleagues across the aisle” about the issue, including Appropriations and Revenue Committee members. Willner’s bill includes a $2 million annual appropriation.   

“The question that I always get is: ‘You’re a Democrat, you’re in the minority in a very large supermajority. Is this bill going to  pass?’ I don’t know the answer to that,” she said.  

Her conversations with colleagues have been met, she said, with some “receptivity” as well as some “embarrassment.” 

“Student health, attendance and overall concentration increases for students by simply providing free period products in public schools,” said Tamarri Wielder, the Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “Soap and toilet paper are already expected. It’s time for students who menstruate to have the same access to these basic and necessary supplies.”  

The Alliance for Period Supplies reported a quarter of students have had to miss a class because they lacked access to period products. 

Laurie Grimes, a pediatric psychologist representing the Kentucky Psychological Association, said period product equity is a mental health issue as well as a gender and economic one.  

“When access to these essential, necessary, not optional products is uncertain, the burden of managing normal bodily functions can be distressing and anxiety producing,” said Grimes. “Students unable to access products may miss school, miss work, miss extracurricular responsibilities and commitments.” 

“These stresses can affect mood, motivation, self concept, body image, and overall well being,” Grimes said. 

Willner was also joined by representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Period Y’all, who spoke in support of the bill. 

Tristan Perry, a social work student at Kentucky State University, also spoke in support of the bill and encouraged more men to speak up on the issue. 

“Any social worker would tell you that our main goal is to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are being met, regardless of gender, economic status, or income level,” Perry said. “This legislation would help them compete that way.” 

Perry added: “If we hope to move forward, everyone, including myself and other men must be willing to have these conversations and normalize talking about the reproductive role of women, instead of treating it as something to be ashamed of. It is not my role to speak for women. But I hope that more men will be willing to speak with women on such issues.”  

A related bill, filed in the House by Rep. Beverly Chester-Burton, D-Shively, would require homeless shelters to provide period and other personal products like condoms and UTI medications for free.

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.

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