The academic semester at the University of Michigan has officially come to a close which means it is time to reflect on the past five months, in addition to the past year. It seemed that every time I turned on the television or logged onto a social media platform, there was only bad news to be reported. This is not to say that there were not any positive moments in 2020, but it was challenging to see the silver lining among the intersecting issues the world encountered during this year. However, I want to end the start of this new decade on a positive note specifically for the international menstruating community: Scotland passed a bill in November 2020 to make all period products free and available for those who need them in public spaces (Lennon). This bill is a huge step forward in the constant battle for affordable and accessible menstrual products throughout the world. Based on Scotland’s history in championing these campaigns, it is no surprise they were the first to enact such legislation. In 2018, Scotland was also the first country to provide period products in all schools, colleges, and universities completely free of charge (Wamsley). Scotland’s leaders demonstrate a definitive understanding of the urgency behind period poverty campaigns. However, as with any legislation, there will be a significant financial cost attached to the bill, which is estimated to total about ￡8.7 million by 2022 (Picheta). This amount is subject to fluctuate depending on the success of the program, quantity of products bought, and overall distribution plan. ￡8.7 million is no small cost but Scotland is showing the rest of the world that they are not afraid to put their citizens’ needs ahead of financial barriers. Lawmakers heard the requests of their communities and diligently worked to respond. The investment Scotland is making in their menstruating population will significantly benefit people who experience period poverty by removing the expenses that pads and tampons bring about during each menstrual cycle. After reading a few articles about the landmark bill, I became very excited at the influence Scotland could have on other countries with the means to enact similar legislation, such as the United States.
In 2018, the average box of tampons in the United States cost $5.99 (Ridder). For the following proposed model, assume the person being analyzed began menstruating at the age of twelve, has consistent periods each month, and they buy the same box of tampons every month from the same store. They are now twenty-two years old and over the course of a decade, this person has spent a total of $718.80 just on tampons. Now imagine this rough estimate multiplied by the number of total menstruators in the United States and keep in mind that the math in this scenario only accounts for ten years of periods, whereas most people stop menstruating in their mid-forties as they approach menopause (Office of Women’s Health). The summation of this cost is tremendous and will most likely only increase as prices with the prices of goods.
Initiating a similar bill to Scotland’s in the United States would help reduce American period poverty and decrease the overall stigma of openly carrying period products to the bathroom. For decades periods have been made out to be a source of embarrassment and something that people should hide. Limited access and long-term costs of products only add to the shame many menstruators experience. If the United States government showed an initiative in procuring a bill to provide period products in public buildings and education institutions, American menstruators would feel more supported by their leaders instead of abandoned. Especially for people who already struggle to put food on the table and pay their bills, not having to worry about purchasing period products would relieve them of an expensive necessity.
Although Scotland does not have as large of a population as the United States, numbers should not be the sole argument against promoting and passing legislation for making period products accessible throughout the United States. The overall cost of this type of bill should not be viewed as a burden on the government or tax payers but as an investment. The rest of the developed world should follow the Scottish parliament’s example in making a federal effort to treat menstruation as a public health issue that can be improved with the correct allocation of resources and attention. Menstruators have long fought for their needs to be heard and with Scotland paving the way for how to bring about such change it is important that other countries follow in their footsteps to diminish period inequalities.