This week, after five years of fits and starts, Michigan’s “tampon tax” bills made it to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk.

The move stops collecting the state’s 6 percent sales tax on feminine hygiene products like tampons, panty liners, cups, sanitary napkins and other menstrual cycle supplies.

It passed with broad, bipartisan support, and as Whitmer is expected to sign it, will likely join Michigan to a group of 20 other states with similar legislation pointed at “period poverty” — inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and education.

In “Changing the Cycle: Period Poverty as a Public Health Crisis,” University of Michigan researchers estimated one in 5 girls had missed school because of inadequate supplies, menstruators were also missing job interviews and work, and being caught between buying hygiene supplies and necessities covered by food stamps and SNAP benefits. Reused pads, paper towels, rags increased risk of urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, plus took an emotional toll connected to elevated anxiety, depression and distress.

Period poverty is global, and the methods of tackling it, varied. Scotland has made menstrual products free. New Zealand distributes free products in schools with the principal’s opt-in. Kenya was the first country to stop taxing the products in 2004.

It’s not always a comfortable conversation, as period poverty is double-weighted by both economic shame and a stigma around menstruation that perpetuates the cycle. Taboos, cultural and social, stop the talking before it starts — or if it does start, it falls on deaf ears.

According to the Period Equity a legal effort, tax measures haven’t passed in more than half of the country (excepting the five states with no sales tax).

One reason given for the inaction, shockingly, is often “discrimination” or “privilege” i.e. that the relief unfairly advantages some taxpayers above others.

Glance at any state’s tax breaks and brace for a whole lot of times when this didn’t matter.

Period Equity points out, “Pixie sticks, Viagra, and tattoos are tax-free in the State of Michigan.”

In Michigan alone, sales tax exemptions are made for groceries, prescription medicine, dental prosthesis, fundraising sales by nonprofit organizations, some leases of school buses from private companies, some agricultural equipment and on and on.

What these interests had was a voice.

Around menstruation these voices have been quiet too long. The governor should sign the bill and continue the conversation.

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