This is a Guest Post with a Call to Action, submitted by Nick Beard, a local activist engaged with fixing systemic inequality. — CM
The existence of period poverty in Delaware a systematic failure to ensure that all Delawareans have access to hygiene supplies: in a time where families are struggling with accessing food and shelter, it’s essential that no one has to worry about using safe and clean hygiene supplies. Accordingly, it was great to see Valerie Longhurst’s HB 20, which would require public and charter (unfortunately, not private or parochial) schools to provide sanitary supplies in the bathrooms. It was disappointing that, as noted by Blue Delaware, that the bill only attracted 1 Republican sponsor. The main objection to the bill seems to be the price of the financial note (the $77,000 seems less objectionable when compared to the bill for school athletic teams) and complaints that most students are able to access these supplies at home or from the school nurse. It’s disappointing that the stigma around mensuration means that these sanitary supplies are treated differently than soap or toilet paper – the argument that most students could bring toilet paper from home or, in a pinch, request extra from the janitor, in order to save the school money would not go down well with parents or our local Delaware community.
11% of Delawareans live below the poverty line. Since hygiene supplies aren’t available as part of SNAP or WIC benefits, it means that these products can often be framed as a luxury rather than a necessity. While Delaware has no sales tax, a majority of other states tax tampons as a luxury item, rather than as a necessity. HB20 by itself is not enough to totally reframe the debate around period poverty and provide sufficient access to sanitary supplies, but it’s certainly a first step. Ideally, all public restrooms, particularly those owned by state and local government, would provide sanitary supplies, and requirements for food assistance would cover these products (as well as toilet paper). Yet letting your representative know how important HB20 is – and how it will begin to debunk the stigma around periods – is incredibly important.