Half of the world’s population menstruates, but in many places, pads and tampons are still treated and taxed as “luxury” items. And the problem is made even worse by lawmakers who seem totally fine with keeping it that way. Recently, one Maine state legislator argued against a bill that would provide female prisoners with easier access to free menstrual products, saying that prison is “not meant to be a country club.”
Fortunately, Maine legislators voted 6-4 to advance the bill, LD 628, on Friday, March 15th, according to tweets from Bangor Daily News reporter Alex Acquisto. However, during the hearing for the bill, one of the four Republicans who voted against it, Representative Richard Pickett, argued that it was unnecessary because prisoners already have access to menstrual products (albeit only one pad or tampon at a time, and only upon request).
Acquisto also tweeted that Pickett accused state Democrats of trying to “micromanage” the prison system.
Maine newspaper the Portland Press Herald notes that thanks to a 2017 memo from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, menstrual products are free for all federal prisoners who need them. But state prisons and county jails—where most incarcerated people are held—don’t have any comparable policies. According to the Press Herald, most of Maine’s state prisons do offer pads and tampons for free, but prisoners have to ask to get them, and as mentioned earlier, sometimes they can only receive one at a time. State Representative Charlotte Warren introduced LD 628 to ensure that all prisoners would be guaranteed free and unrestricted access to menstrual products, although the bill doesn’t stipulate how these products should be handed out.
At the end of the day, tampons and pads shouldn’t be seen as a luxury; they should be seen as a basic right that ensures a basic level of hygiene and sanitation for female inmates. We’re just glad that the majority of Maine lawmakers saw the light on this one.