Free Condoms and Menstrual Products Shouldn't Be Mutually Exclusive

 

 

Menstrual products should be affordable and accessible to all. Pads, tampons and cups all perform an essential function, and not having access to menstrual hygiene products can hinder one’s ability to attend school and otherwise function in their daily lives.

If you think similarly, you may have also had the following thought: Why are condoms free and menstrual products aren’t? One is clearly essential while the other isn’t.

This line of thinking is understandable, but it's a bit misinformed.

First, condoms are free because having access to protection increases the probability of people using it, which can lead to decreased transmission of sexually transmitted infections. You may have also heard that condoms are free because of LGBT activism; during the peak of the AIDS crisis, ACT UP distributed condoms and educational materials at their demonstrations. 

Contraceptives are free to protect the community’s health. It’s the same reason there are needle sharing programs for injection drug users, and the same reason that we give out free disposable masks to people without them. It’s because, while some may not perform healthy behaviors or in some cases actively refuse to perform them, that doesn’t mean they deserve to be punished for it. You can argue that sex isn’t essential, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Additionally, menstrual products remain inaccessible now because of the belief that they are inessential. Supporters of free menstrual products know this already, but those that make dismissive statements about contraceptives may not see the similarities between these scenarios.

Instead of brushing off one product in favor of the other, let’s recognize that both barrier contraceptives and menstrual products are essential to sexual and reproductive health and work towards making them available to all.