Members of the US House of Representatives can now use their personal allowances from the federal government to purchase period products from the legislative body’s office supply store, no questions asked.
California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the chairperson of the House Administration Committee, announced the news in a letter Monday, according to Broadly.
Lofgren’s letter was in response to Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and Sean Patrick Maloney and Grace Meng of New York, who submitted a joint request for the committee to specify whether or not house members could use their Members' Representational Allowance (MRA) to purchase period products. MRAs are stipends allocated to help representatives conduct their duties, but there are several restrictions on how they can be redeemed.
“I strongly support and admire my colleagues’ goal and am directing the finance office to approve use of MRA funds for the purchase of menstrual products,” Lofgren wrote in the letter.
Lofgren had already made an effort to ensure access to period products in women’s bathrooms throughout the Capitol, but she wanted to make it easier for representatives to purchase them for their staff and constituents. In the past, House lawmakers had a hard time because the rules around using MRA funds to buy them weren’t clearly defined.
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In the summer of 2018, the House Administration Committee reportedly denied Maloney’s first request to use his MRA to buy tampons for his office, but they eventually gave him permission.
"Like I said repeatedly last year, saying tampons are superfluous but other hygiene products like hand sanitizer and tissues are totally necessary reinforces the idea that our rules are written by men, for men, and that women are merely second-class citizens on Capitol Hill,” Maloney said in a statement.
People who menstruate face barriers to safe menstrual hygiene all around the world. The shame and stigma around periods prevent people from asking for help to obtain period products and many of them end up missing out on school or work as a result.
The new MRA period products announcement is one of the House’s recent efforts to guarantee equal sanitation access to its staff. Congress also installed a women’s bathroom near the House speaker’s office for the first time in 2011 and expanded it two years later to accommodate an influx of female lawmakers.