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Applauds Legislative Commitment to Expanding Access to Period Products in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.V. — Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and its partners join more than a dozen other states in announcing a sweeping policy initiative designed to expand access to reproductive health care. In West Virginia, three new pieces of legislation were introduced to expand access to period products — including tampons, pads and napkins — throughout the state in public schools and prisons, as well as legislation to remove the tampon tax.

House Bills (HB) 4520, HB 4536 and HB 4598 present the opportunity for movement toward menstrual equity for all West Virginians who have periods.

  • HB 4520 would require free period products for students in 6th-12th grades.

  • HB 4536 would exempt period products from the state sales tax.

  • HB 4598 would require that period products be provided to women in prisons.

Providing necessary products for free in public spaces aims to minimize menstruation stigma. People with periods should not have to worry about consistent or affordable access to necessary health management supplies.

“Common sense House Bill 4520 finally allows students with periods to access essential products throughout the school day with minimal worry about meeting their basic health needs,” Delegate John Williams said. “Young people shouldn’t have to worry about accessing period products in a space where they spend the majority of their time focused on learning. This bill brings us closer to acknowledging that menstrual equity is the key to self-determination and personal productivity, including for our young people.”

Access to period products is a public health issue — periods and managing menstruation are not a luxury. Self-determination and dignity cannot be achieved until everyone has the opportunity to meet their basic needs, which include access to affordable menstrual health management products for people with periods.

“For over a year Planned Parenthood has worked on the ground to meet the critical need of providing access to period products for people in schools and prisons throughout West Virginia,” Alisa Clements, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic West Virginia Director of Public Affairs, said. “This legislation will ensure that some of our state’s most marginalized and forgotten communities, particularly young people and women in prisons, will have equitable access to the basic health care products they need to have a healthy period.”

The bills address the menstrual equity gap for marginalized people such as students, people with low incomes and people in prisons in particular, and sets West Virginia on a path to normalize period products as essential health care. The bills also work toward economic justice for people with periods who have to pay gendered pink taxes on health management products and continue to face repeated attacks on access to reproductive health care.

In 2018, we are still working toward a world in which everyone has the freedom and opportunity to control their lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families and our life’s path.