New York City is on track to become the nation's first city to require free tampons and sanitary pads in public schools, homeless shelters, and jails after lawmakers approved the idea Tuesday amid a national discussion of the costs of having a period, the AP reports. The proposal marks a new direction in activists' push to dismantle what they see as unfair financial barriers between women and needed sanitary products. New York state lawmakers voted last month to become the sixth state to eliminate sales tax on the items. It would make pads and tampons free in restrooms that serve 300,000 schoolgirls, it would guarantee the products' availability to 23,000 women in homeless shelters, and it would add the force of law to jail standards about sanitary supplies.
Supporters say New York would lead cities by having a law, rather than more changeable policies, in a wide range of locales. "They're as necessary as toilet paper," so they ought to be just as freely accessible, says Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the councilwoman who proposed the law. Once dispensers are installed, the proposal is expected to cost about $2.5 million annually. Advocates say the measure also would make the free sanitary supplies more readily available by putting them in restrooms, instead of nurses' offices, in schools with female students in sixth grade and up. Girls who need pads or tampons now have to scramble to try to get to the nurse and then the restroom in breaks between classes, says Lineyah Mitchell, a graduating senior at Brooklyn Technical High School. (Read more tampon stories.)