Millions of Women in the US Lack Proper Access to Menstrual Supplies

For many women, getting a period for 3 to 8 days every month can be hellish — everything from bleeding, cramps, and fatigue to the humiliating march to the local store for tampons and pads.

But these women are incredibly lucky compared to thousands of marginalized Americans who lack adequate access to these products so fundamental to women’s reproductive health.

In particular, women in prison face an uphill battle getting their hands on feminine hygiene products. Incarcerated people earn at most 75 cents a day, which has to be split between basic necessities like toothpaste and deodorant.

In prison, costs range from $2.63 for 24 pads to over $4 for eight tampons. That means giving up more than three days of wages for pads and nearly twice that much for tampons.

Most inmates simply can’t afford it, and lack of access to menstrual supplies creates toxic choices for women.

Prisoners frequently either go without supplies, bleeding onto clothes they’re then stuck with until the next laundry day, or end up using one tampon or pad for multiple days. Wearing an individual tampon or pad for more than the recommended maximum of eight hours increases the risk of bacterial or fungal infection as well as toxic shock syndrome, a rare but serious illness that can lead to death.

Plus, prison supplies are limited, and women’s periods may sync up when they’re in close quarters. That’s hundreds, potentially thousands, of women all stuck with their periods at the same time facing tension surrounding limited tampon supplies. Even the last-resort option of stuffing toilet paper down your pants comes at a price, as toilet paper is rationed in prisons.

Going through your period in the privacy of your own home can be difficult enough. Going through your period in prison without adequate access to supplies is beyond degrading — it’s cruel.

Limiting access to feminine products in prisons is a form of abuse used to wield control over inmates and dehumanize them. Barring drastic policy changes, prison…

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