With a stroke of Gov. Rick Scott’s pen, Florida joined the ranks of a mere 13 other states in eliminating the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products — commonly dubbed the tampon tax — last Thursday.
The long overdue slashing of the tampon tax is only one part of a $180 million tax cut package that goes into effect January 2018. The package categorizes products such as tampons, menstrual pads and menstrual cups as “common household remedies,” successfully disallowing their taxation.
Although this is certainly a victory for Florida women — the cut is estimated to save the state’s consumers $11 million in menstrual products each year — the state still has a long road ahead in terms of guaranteeing fundamental rights across the gender spectrum.
In a stroke of irony that cannot be overstated, Scott approved the tampon tax cut precisely on the one-year anniversary of another serious cut: House Bill 1411. This bill, among other drastic measures, removed state funding from any clinic that performs abortions, most prominently Planned Parenthood.
The bill also puts a cork in state funding to organizations with any sort of affiliation to a clinic that provides abortions, in addition to imposing strenuous licensing requirements and obstacles for family planning clinics. These changes make it more difficult for clinics to provide many vital services to women across the Sunshine State.
Family planning clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, are key to ensuring equal opportunity and basic health care across the gender spectrum, particularly for low-income Floridians in areas with sparse medical services.
According to Planned Parenthood, 70 percent of its clinics in Florida are located in medically underserved regions of the state. These clinics provide crucial services like STD testing and breast cancer screenings at a discounted price and are consequently an indispensable resource for thousands of women seeking access to basic medical care.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood states 79 percent of its patients have “incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level,” so the affordable rates offered at the clinics often make the difference between them receiving or foregoing important medical attention.
Yet, Scott and the Florida legislature stripped these clinics and their affiliates of state money, effectively stripping thousands of women of a critical resource that helps guarantee their bodily autonomy.
So sure, those of us who menstruate in Florida will be paying less for still-overpriced menstrual products — it only took 172 years to be deemed a necessity by Florida law — but do not be fooled there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in this state and this country before people of all genders have equal access to basic necessities.
Renee Perez is a junior majoring in political science.