State Rep. Lisa Willner speaks with students of Louisville’s Mercy Academy about her legislation to remove sales tax from period products. Photo by Sarah Ladd for Kentucky Lantern.
FRANKFORT — Jessica Gross has had to leave school because she started her period and didn’t have menstrual products with her.
“It’s a panic situation,” said Louisville’s Gross, 16, who is a student at Mercy Academy. “It’s not the embarrassment of being on your period. It’s the way that people around you see it.”
That’s why she supports a bipartisan Kentucky bill introduced Tuesday that would, if passed, exempt period products from sales tax.
She sees the bill as a first step to gender equality, the de-stigmatization of periods and more accessible menstrual products. Gross was one of about 45 students with Mercy Academy who were in Frankfort to lobby in support of this legislation, House Bill 142.
Bill sponsors Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, want the tax exemption applied to “tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins and other similar tangible personal property designed for feminine hygiene in connection with the human menstrual cycle.”
The exemption would apply to purchases made on or after July 1 and before July 1, 2027.
Willner on Wednesday called removal of the tax an “issue of fundamental fairness.” Period products, she said, are “not an optional expense.”
The Alliance for Period Supplies says 23 states and Washington D.C. exempt menstrual products from sales tax. The Journal of Global Health Reports says more than half of the world’s population menstruate.
A Thinx & Period study last year reported one in five youth who menstruate had trouble affording period products. Additionally, more than 80% of menstruating youth had missed class or knew someone who missed school time because of their period, according to that report.
Dr. Laurie Grimes, a Louisville child psychologist, said even if you don’t have access to period products, “the biological process still happens.”
“So there’s embarrassment and shame and judgment,” Grimes said. “You miss school, you miss work. The stress, the distress, the anticipatory anxiety around that, ‘Am I gonna have enough? Will this last the whole day?’ These are absolutely mental health issues and can have an impact on how you function in your day.”
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