MHM Policy in the U.S.
In recent years, a good deal of progress has been made on menstrual health policy in the U.S.
However, a major challenge is that find useful information about which legislation has been passed in the U.S. has a “needle in a haystack” kind of quality to it. That is largely due to federalism, in which individual states are responsible for governing on the many issues not handled by the national, i.e., “federal”, government. Relatedly, a marked decline in media coverage of state and local government actions has compounded the challenge of tracking that progress.
In the U.S., 50 largely independent state governments handle most of the issues at the core of most potential MHM-related policies in the U.S. For example, state governments (and local governments) handle most aspects of public schooling. State governments also handle many aspects of health care policy, as well as a fair amount of non-private healthcare policies. Most prison spending is divided between state and county-level governments. The U.S. does not have a V.A.T. equivalent, so state governments handle nearly all aspects of product taxation. And so on.
Moreover, cities can also bypass a lack of state action. So not only is change occurring some states, it can also separately occur in some towns, as well. Although such situations are still rare now (Ann Arbor, Michigan, is said to be the first U.S. city to mandate free pads in schools), that could change in the future.
It should be recognized, however, that while the sheer number of moving parts involved in policy passage at the state level can be a major challenge for both advocacy and for tracking MHM policy, federalism can also be viewed as an opportunity for progress, as well. In particular, some states may be more receptive to policy changes in this arena than others, allowing for progress to be achieved incrementally, when it might have been rejected at the national level. Part of that is because every state that successfully passes innovative legislation can then be held up as an example of success to those pressing for progress on that front in their own states.
For a case study on the passage of a bill providing free menstrual products in schools in one of a few “early mover” states, see this IMHER post on how a free-pads-in-schools bill was passed in New Hampshire, the state where IMHER is based.
Despite the complexities in play, WVE (Women’s Voices for the Earth) has been doing the challenging work of tracking menstrual policy changes in the U.S. states. Rather than replicate that work, we would suggest that for information about the status of U.S. state policies, you go to the WVE “Update on Menstrual Policies” page (they seem to update it a couple of
times per year.)
Below, you will find a list of the MHM organizations that do a significant amount of work in the U.S. (If you have an organization for us to add to this list, please use this form.)