Jan 26, 2023 - News

Menstrual products available in Austin libraries

Menstrual products available for free in a bathroom at a library.

Menstrual products available for free in the men's bathroom at the Yarborough Branch of the Austin Public Library. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

Menstrual products are now widely available for free at city of Austin libraries and other city-owned facilities.

Driving the news: City workers this month distributed pads and tampons in bathrooms at branch libraries β€” and at the Central Library in December.

Context: ​​In May, the Austin City Council passed a resolution calling for the city to provide free menstrual products in:

  • City-owned showers and bathrooms accessible to people experiencing homelessness.
  • City-owned recreation centers, public health facilities and summer camps.
  • All Austin Public Library facilities.

Fighting period poverty

By the numbers: The average woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life, which is about seven years, and will spend about $18,000 on menstrual products, per the May resolution.

  • Tampons and pads are currently subject to sales tax and are not covered by food stamps.
  • The overall annual cost of stocking menstrual products in city public restrooms is approximately $65,000, per a 2022 city memo. It could cost the libraries about $29,000 annually to re-stock the products in their bathrooms, the memo said.

Between the lines: In the wake of political blowback after Texas banned abortion last year, the state's GOP politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, said they support repealing the "tampon tax."

What they're saying: Menstrual products are available in all public restrooms "as the library serves people with many different backgrounds and needs, including those acting as a proxy for a family member or friend, those who are transitioning/have transitioned, and those experiencing a variety of different medical circumstances," Austin Public Library spokesperson Baylor Johnson tells Axios.

Flashback: The Austin Independent School District spent $85,000 last summer installing dispensers to provide free tampons and pads in middle and high school bathrooms.

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