Rows of menstrual hygiene products
Pictured are rows of menstrual hygiene products in a local retail store. Photo by Olivia Taylor/NNS.

More and more states are proposing bills that will make menstrual hygiene products sales tax exempt. For many women and others that menstruate, this means that the added expenses for products they regularly use can be more accessible – especially for low-income women. This bill not only addresses the general public in Nebraska, but also women that are incarcerated   

Period Equity, a legal organization that fights for menstrual equity and leveraging the tools of law and policy to ensure that menstruation never poses a barrier to civic engagement and participation, found that Nebraska is currently one of the 27 states that still does not have tax free menstrual hygiene products. 

Introduced by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha introduced LB 881 to add menstrual hygiene products to the list of products that are already tax-exempt. Other necessity items that are tax-exempt are food and medications. And specifically in Nebraska, admissions to zoos and aquariums are tax-exempt but not tampons and pads.

Women’s rights advocates have been pushing for menstrual hygiene products to be better accessible to women and others that regularly use these products. 

Advocates like Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, have advocated for this statewide change, as she added her name to LB 881 in support of the bill.  

And in 2019, Hunt had also proposed a similar bill, LB 170, and it was indefinitely postponed. This means, to not actually postpone the bill but not take a direct vote on it and instead be used as a secondary motion to kill the main motion of the bill.

“Menstrual hygiene products are not luxury items. They address a biological need that people have,” Hunt said in an interview. “And it’s similar to other necessary products like pharmaceutical drugs and groceries and things that we know people need in order to live a dignified life and exist.”

McKinney addressed the Revenue Committee in a hearing on Feb. 25, explaining why women and people that menstruate should not be taxed for essential items they need in their daily lives.

Another part of the bill would provide a guarantee that detention facilities in Nebraska to menstrual hygiene products to incarcerated women and others for free.  

In 2018, the Nebraska Department of Corrections changed its policy around inmates’ access to menstrual hygiene products.  

Prior to this policy change, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska reported: “Women in Nebraska prisons and jails are being charged 20 to 50% more for tampons and other menstrual products than the prices at local grocery stores or pharmacies.”  

With the current policy, women in prisons now have access to free generic tampons and pads and are able to buy brand-name products at a cost in the prison canteens.  

With LB 881, McKinney’s hope is to guarantee that the products that are currently free to prisoners, stay free and that the quality of the products that are provided are of adequate quality for the prisoners.  

No immediate action was taken against LB 881 and no one spoke against the bill.