Tampons and pads are not luxury items. They are bare necessities for women, and I challenge every woman who disagrees to go without them during their time of the month and see how they like it. Periods are biological processes, and I hypothesize that if men had periods, the necessary menstrual products would be totally free or at least cheaper than they are now.

I’m not saying that tampons and pads should be totally free for everyone, but they should cost less and be provided for women in all prisons in America, homeless women and anyone else who can’t afford to pay $10 for the good brand of tampons.

Conservatives, before you begin to get angry, know that your beloved state of Louisiana is surprisingly at the forefront of providing pads and tampons for women. In May 2018, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Baton Rouge Rep. Regina Barrow’s Dignity for Women Incarcerated Act into law, requiring that all female inmates in Louisiana have unlimited access to tampons and pads at no cost.

All women in Louisiana prisons were originally issued only 10 pads a month. This is ridiculous because women have varying flows, and some women could use several pads in a single day. Any extra menstrual products had to be purchased. Female prisoners were forced to fashion pads and tampons out of tissue and other tools or work nonstop to buy more.

Women in prison can work to earn money to spend in commissary, where they can purchase items including feminine hygiene products. An Arizona lawmaker concluded that women have to work 27 hours to afford a basic pack of tampons. This is cruel. And though federal prisons are now required to issue women tampons and pads, most women incarcerated are in state prisons. Alabama has recently followed suit with Louisiana to become one of the few states granting basic human rights to its female prisoners.

Though Louisiana did take that great leap forward, we took a step backward when Sen. J.P. Morrell’s,D-New Orleans, proposal to exempt feminine products and diapers from sales tax was blocked from passing. Hopefully, another lawmaker will bring this to the legislature again. There are so many women in Louisiana living in poverty who can barely afford food. How can we expect them to afford feminine products? If we aren’t going to make them free, they should be sales tax-free at least.

If a black woman can get a bill allowing for the free distribution of feminine products to incarcerated women in the notoriously and often times unfortunately conservative state of Louisiana, every one of the 50 states can. It is time for America to stop denying women their dignity and self-respect. It is absolutely disgusting knowing that the powers that be are intentionally degrading women in this manner and that other women across the country support it.

Olivia James is a 19-year-old mass communication freshman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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