Texas becomes latest state to eliminate tax on menstrual, baby products

Texas stopped charging sales tax on menstrual and baby products starting Friday, becoming the 24th state to end a practice that women’s rights groups argue are discriminatory.

The products — including menstrual pads and baby diapers — were previously taxed as “luxury goods” in Texas at a 6.25 percent rate, but will now be classified as essential goods in a group that includes over-the-counter medicines and other medical products.

“Every woman knows that these products are not optional,” state Sen. Joan Huffman (R), a driving force behind the Texas bill, said in a statement last year. “They are essential to our health and well-being and should be tax exempt.”

The bill was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in June after passing the state Senate on a 29-2 vote, and the House by a 129-14 vote.

About 20 states still tax period products at the standard rate, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.

“Period products are essential and should be recognized as material basic needs rather than luxury goods,” the nonprofit states on its site.

Advocates say the cost of menstrual products is discriminatory in itself — because men do not have to purchase the products — but that taxing the sales for mandatory purchases exacerbates the difference.

Pharmacy giant CVS announced last year that it would reduce the price of its store-brand period products by 25 percent in order to reduce the burden of the so-called “period tax.”

“Purchases of period products should have been tax-exempt from the start, just like prescription drugs,” Laura Strausfeld, director of the nonprofit Period Law, said last year.

“Due to lack of adequate representation in state legislatures when sales tax bills were passed, and the stigma around talking about menstruation, state governments have heedlessly bilked women out of billions of dollars on purchases of these medical necessities,” she said.

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