The office of Arizona state Rep. T.J. Shope (R-8) may soon be full of tampons.
As chairman of the state’s House of Representatives, he recently killed a bill that would have addressed the state’s monthly limit on sanitary pads for female inmates, an ongoing problem that advocates say is deeply sexist and harmful to women’s health, according to Phoenix New Times.
Each month, female inmates get 12 sanitary pads to handle their periods. Unsurprisingly, that’s not enough for a lot of women and if they want more, they have pay for them out of pocket.
Take Action: #ItsBloodyTime to End the Taboo Around Menstruation
Since inmates earn around 15 cents an hour for work they perform, a few dollars is prohibitively expensive, which often forces them to find unsanitary solutions or “free bleed" when they run out of their allotted 12 pads.
Shope, the chairman of the House of Representatives, said the issue should be handled internally at the corrections department. People across the state who think that the policy — under which women who run out of pads and stain their clothing can be penalized for uniform infractions — disagree.
And so people across the state and beyond are protesting his decision by mailing him tampons and demanding that the bill goes to the floor for a vote.
They’re also tweeting at Shope with pictures of tampons and the hashtag #LetItFLow, in reference to the bill’s stalled progress.
I’m sorry that @TJShopeforAZ had to hear about the biological processes involved in propagating our species. Now do the decent thing and give #HB2222 a hearing. Prohibitively expensive hygiene products for incarcerated women is absurd. #LetItFlowpic.twitter.com/nf49OoNhKa— Christy Love (@C_Dub_Love) February 11, 2018
"Bloodstained pants, bartering and begging for pads was a regular occurrence," one woman who was formerly incarcerated testified before the state House of Representatives committee.
"You’ve got to really think if you want to sink your whole month’s income into pads,” she continued.
The bill, introduced by state representative Athena Salman, would have provided unlimited sanitary pads to inmates at an annual cost of $80,000. It was scheduled to go to a hearing on the floor of the House, but Shope blocked the bill, the Phoenix New Times reports.
Shope said that he has been told that a change in the rule is forthcoming from the corrections department, according to the Phoenix New Times.
He also said that he plans on donating the sanitary pads mailed to him to the DOC or women’s shelters.
Advocates, meanwhile, insist that a law would better address the problem because it would prevent future cutbacks in pads, punitive withholding of pads by authorities, and it would enshrine what they regard as a basic right.
If the bill is allowed to go to the floor, it would then be allowed to go up for a vote, where Salman thinks it has a good chance of passing.
"[This is] such a glaring example of patriarchy, and why it’s not okay to have only men in the position to make these choices,” Rebecca Olsen McHood, who's currently running as an independent candidate for the State Senate, told the Phoenix New Times.
"To have women begging men for their feminine needs is just unconscionable," she said. "It’s unfathomable."
Global Citizen campaigns on universal access to menstrual hygiene products and you can take action on this issue here.