Salt Lake City Council approves free hygiene products

It’s a topic most people don’t talk about at work. A hidden component, understandably so, of daily life. But a trio of City Council Members threw it out there for discussion at an annual budget meeting and the full Council supported it: free feminine hygiene products for all.

“We don’t charge people for toilet paper, and women’s access to feminine hygiene products shouldn’t be charged either,” said Council Member Erin Mendenhall, one of the three female Council Members who co-sponsored the proposal.

By taking a budget action for the City’s 2019-20 General Fund budget, the City Council set a policy direction for Salt Lake City government that encourages the essential women’s hygiene products (tampons and pads) become free at some City facilities.

The Council also expressed its intent to encourage the City Library to follow suit, and to assure that the City’s Enterprise Funds (Airport, Public Utilities, Golf) have the budget to achieve this policy goal. Council Chair Charlie Luke doubled the original budget suggestion to $20,000 for a pilot program.  The budget was adopted June 11, and the fiscal year begins July 1.

“We should start here at our own house and make these products free, then work forward to create some menstrual equity policies,” said Council’s Amy Fowler, one of the trio who opened up the discussion. 

A 2019 study in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that two-thirds of low-income women were unable to afford feminine hygiene products. 

“Pads or tampons are a necessity, not a luxury,” added Council Member Ana Valdemoros, another co-sponsor. “I hope we draw attention from those in charge at schools and other public institutions in Utah to start thinking of similar policies.”

Some estimates suggest people who menstruate will spend as much as $180o on hygiene products throughout their lives. There also is a movement to make the products free in many public places.

“I really appreciate Council Members Fowler, Mendenhall and Valdemoros for raising this issue. I’ve never understood why it is acceptable to charge women and girls for these products. It’s time to end that practice, and Salt Lake City is the right place to do it,” said Luke.