Legislation introduced Monday by Cleveland City Councilwoman Jasmin Santana would make menstrual products like tampons and pads free at City Hall and city rec centers.
The bill's language specifically highlights the need for these products in low-income and vulnerable communities. On average, a woman spends $13.25 each month on menstrual products, which adds up to more than $6,300 in her reproductive lifetime. The bill cited a St. Louis study that found that among poor women, 64 percent did not have the money to buy menstrual products every month and nearly half had been forced to choose between food and menstrual products. Among young girls, access to these products is critical, increasing school attendance and confidence at a time of heightened vulnerability.
In 2016, the Columbus-based nonprofit Free the Tampons campaigned for free menstrual products in cities across the country. The idea failed to gain a foothold in Cleveland, (an outcome undoubtedly related to the lack of women in local leadership.)
The argument has always been that toilet paper and other sanitary products are provided free of charge, so menstrual products — which are medically necessary during menstruation — should be as well.
Though Santana's bill does not include dollar figures, it would authorize the Director of Public Works to enter into contracts for the purchase of the menstrual products themselves, product dispensers and literature on menstrual hygiene and menstrual equity. It also calls on other local government entities and businesses to adopt similar policies and provide these essential products in their own restrooms.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.