(Photo by Holly Hildreth / Getty Images)
People in New Mexico will no longer have to pay taxes on menstrual pads, tampons and cups as of July 1 — a victory for advocates who’ve been working on the issue for years.
A provision to allow for a deduction on retailers’ gross receipts taxes was included in the omnibus tax reform bill that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed on Tuesday.
People who menstruate will no longer have to pay a tax on a health necessity, said Rep. Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque), who has sponsored measures on this issue during previous legislative sessions.
“A few pennies less does make a difference,” she said. .
Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine Clark said she worked on this issue as an advocate while she was in college and then again as a member of the Santa Fe Young Democrats in 2015. She worked with former Republican Sen. Lisa Torraco to draft an early version of New Mexico’s legislation that never was formally introduced, she said.
“The reality is if the menstrual cycle is 28 days, and the bleeding portion is 7, then roughly one quarter of women ages 12-50 are bleeding at any given time,” Clark said. “Yet we don’t make it an automatic benefit, and even taxed it.”
Preventing health emergencies
In addition to helping people in poverty and preserving dignity, advocates say improving access to menstrual products can prevent serious health concerns.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but life-threatening infection that can result from using a single tampon for too long. When people can’t access or afford enough menstruation supplies, sometimes they try to make them last beyond their suggested use or invent alternatives that are dangerous and can lead to infection.
Amanda Lokke, a fourth-year medical student at the University of New Mexico, testified during a legislative committee hearing on Aug. 17 that in extreme circumstances, toxic shock syndrome can lead to sepsis and become fatal.
“If there is no early intervention, blood pressure can fall dangerously low and result in inadequate blood supply to body tissues, which will then lead to organ failure, including kidney, liver, heart and lung failure,” she said. At this stage, “there’s a hospitalization rate of 98%, and a large portion of these cases will end in death.”
Other nonfatal but potentially serious health problems associated with inadequate menstrual hygiene are yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, rashes, urinary tract infections and others that can be harmful, embarrassing and stigmatizing, Lokke said. They can also lead to chronic obstetric and gynecological health complications.
An earlier version of the bill met with opposition because, Clark said, the version also included removing the tax from diapers — a cost she says also disproportionately burdens women — and “would have taken $3 million out of the general fund in a lean year,” Clark said.
Clark recalled thinking even at the time that “women being treated unfairly should not be the way we balance the budget.”
Rep Antonio “Moe” Maestas-D was previously opposed to the carve-out for menstrual products in the tax code because of the number of “swiss cheese” holes that already exist. He continues to caution that the legislation may not achieve the goal the sponsor and advocates were after.
“Similar to food in a grocery store, the company can ratchet up the price to make up the difference,” Maestas said.
Despite the potential loopholes, Trujillo said the change is a good first step. But, she added, her work is not yet done.
Trujillo said she hopes that schools and women’s prisons will also start providing these necessities without restrictions and that she’s interested in working with congressional leaders to see if there is a way to expand EBT benefits to include hygiene products.
“Clearly the goal would be to make them free for all, but that would be in the future,” Trujillo said.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.