By Joy Bergmann
Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal has organized the first-ever West Side Tampon-a-Thon, a collection drive for menstrual products to be donated to Safe Horizon‘s domestic violence shelters across the city. “With new people coming into these shelters all the time, they can never have enough of these products, which are costly,” says Rosenthal. “But the West Side is always so generous. We’re going to chip in and do our part.”
Anyone who would like to donate tampons, pads and/or panty liners should bring unopened packages to Rosenthal’s district office during business hours through the end of March, Women’s History Month. The office is located at 230 W. 72nd Street, Suite 2F.
Menstruation-related issues have become a recurring theme in Rosenthal’s work in Albany as well.
In 2015 she made her first foray into menstruation-related legislation, eventually eliminating all state and local sales taxes on menstrual supplies. “Anyone who’s ever had a period will tell you that access to tampons and pads is no luxury, and it shouldn’t be taxed like one,” Rosenthal says. “Once I passed that, I delved into the whole field. And there are so many inequities.”
Rosenthal has sponsored legislation to:
- Require menstrual hygiene products be made available for free in restrooms across the state, also known as the TAMP Act: Total Access to Menstrual Products.
- Provide free menstrual hygiene products to individuals in homeless shelters. Last year, Rosenthal’s law requiring correctional facilities to provide free menstrual supplies passed and is now in effect.
- Require charter schools to provide free menstrual hygiene products. This bill has passed both houses and is waiting to be signed by Gov. Cuomo. Rosenthal’s law requiring all other public schools to offer free products to students in grades 6-12 went into effect last summer.
- Require manufacturers of menstrual products to list all ingredients with percentages of all components.
- Create a research program to determine the risks posed from potential toxins in menstrual hygiene products.
- Direct the commissioner of health to develop informational materials concerning menstrual disorders for distribution in schools and to patients.
- Add dysmenorrhea [painful periods] as a covered condition for lawful use of medical marijuana.
- Allow employees to use dysmenorrhea as a reason for use of sick leave.
Why has Rosenthal become such a period rights activist?
“It’s about fairness, it’s about equal treatment…it’s about leveling the playing field…moving toward true equity,” she says. “It’s just a matter of justice.”
Rosenthal says that even in the 21st century the topic, “is stigmatized, people are afraid to talk about it, even young girls these days somehow know it’s something to hide.”
In a recent TEDMED talk, Rosenthal tells the story of her own first period, and the sense of shame she felt, hiding the news from her mother.
She says she’s inspired to bring menstruation out in the open. “We really need a shift. I think by passing legislation we will cause a shift in attitude, in protections and just normalizing something that is completely biologically normal and necessary.”