(Emory Wheel/Alison Barlow)

I am lucky that I can afford my period. I do not have to sit out of classes and activities once a month or put my daily life on hold. I don’t fear bleeding through my pants. I have enough money to buy pads and tampons. At Emory, I can get them for free from boxes in the communal bathrooms. 

But if I had to put my daily life on hold because I couldn’t afford my period, I would have already missed out on 548 days of my life. In my lifetime, I would lose a total of 8.7 years. Currently, 28 states, including Georgia, levy a sales tax on menstrual products. The so-called “tampon tax” costs women about $20 million a year, and brings states more than $150 million a year in profit. Any tax that discriminates on the basis of sex is unconstitutional. Georgia must abolish the tampon tax. 

The state of Georgia profits off women’s bodies through taxation. In Georgia, females ages 10 to 54 spend about $63 a year per person on menstrual products. Yet lawmakers continually ignore that cost. In 2020, the Department of Audits and Accounts estimated the state would lose $9 million in revenue if it were to stop taxing menstrual products. This may sound like a lot of money, but it is miniscule compared to Georgia’s $42.8 billion state budget. Even if the state is unwilling to forego those funds, the state could replace the money by taxing items and services used by the entire population, such as gasoline, tattoos and piercings, instead of products that are necessary for basic hygiene and daily life only for people who menstruate. 

Though there have been multiple attempts to exempt menstrual products from the sales tax in Georgia, none have been successful. In 2018 and 2019, Democratic state Rep. Debbie Buckner introduced an exemption bill. She argued that though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes menstrual products as medical devices, Georgia carries a double standard, taxing them and not others like insulin syringes. She introduced the bill again in March 2021, but no action was taken. Instead, the state continued to gain revenue from menstrual product sales, and people who menstruate continued to suffer under a tax on their bodies. 

The tampon tax is an issue of sex equity. Most states make tax exemptions for necessary, non-luxury items, but even though almost half of the population menstruates, tampons, pads and menstrual cups are deemed “luxury goods” by lawmakers. People are being taxed for their biological makeup. To make matters worse, products like Viagra and Rogaine, which treat erectile dysfunction and baldness, are considered “medically necessary” and exempt from sales tax. In short, the government is willing to subsidize a man’s appearance and sex life, but not a woman’s hygeine needs. 

The harmful effect of this policy is exacerbated by the fact that women make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, yet they are taxed for their biological needs when cis men are not.

The tampon tax especially hurts low-income women, who must pay this on top of essentials like housing and food. A survey in St. Louis, Missouri found that two-thirds of women in the city were unable to afford menstrual products. Nearly half could not afford to buy both menstrual products and food. Women should not be forced to make do with toilet paper and rags, or use products multiple times and risk serious infection. Women of color suffer disproportionately as well, and the tampon tax only exacerbates wealth inequality. Black women earn on average 62 cents for every dollar white men make, while Latina women make 54 cents. Georgia’s population is 32.6% African American and 9.9% Hispanic. The state also has 55,650 transgender residents, many of whom also menstruate. In addition, transgender people are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than cis people, and are often unable to access free menstrual products in women’s restrooms. A “tampon tax” is not just an inconvenience — it is a barrier to racial and socioeconomic equity.  

But ending the tampon tax is only a first step. Georgia must follow the lead of other states like California to ensure equal access to menstrual products. In addition to abolishing its tax on menstrual products, California recently passed a law requiring public middle and high schools to stock bathrooms with pads or tampons. This law also requires California State University, a system with 23 campuses around the state, and all community college districts to supply free menstrual products in at least one central location on campus. Schools with means like Emory should not be the only campuses that provide access to products that are basic healthcare necessities.

Everyone should be able to afford their period. Access to menstrual products is more than an issue of gender equality. It’s an issue of racial and income equality. It is a human right. Though the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, the sex-based discrimination imposed by the “tampon tax” is a clear violation. Taxing feminine products isn’t just unfair; it’s unconstitutional. It’s time for Georgia to abolish its tampon tax and end this sentence. Period. 

Chaya Tong (25C) is from the Bay Area, California.