President Barack Obama has weighed in on the controversial tampon tax just days after the year of the period came to a close.
YouTube star Ingrid Nilson asked the president why 40 states in the U.S. continue to levy a sales tax on feminine hygiene products as if they are luxury goods. “I don’t know anyone who would say periods are a luxury,” she said.
“I think that’s fair to say. Michelle would agree with you on that,” the president joked.
Mounting public pressure has compelled Canada to rescind its federal tax on feminine hygiene products. Activists in Australia, the U.K., and elsewhere are calling for legislators to treat feminine hygiene as a necessity. In America, however, the issue is far more complicated because the sales tax is controlled at state and local levels.
When asked why products like pads and tampons continue to be taxed when other medically necessary items often are not, Obama was stumped. “I have to tell you — I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” he said.
He pointed to the same reasoning offered up by feminists and activists who protest the tax: that it exists because male-dominated legislations don’t consider feminine hygiene a priority. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed,” he said.
However, the president said it was up to women to demand for a better solution: “I think it’s pretty sensible for women in those states that you just mentioned to work to get those taxes removed. Those aren’t federal taxes that are imposed, those are state taxes, state laws, so it would be state governors and state legislators who would have to reverse those,” he said.
Obama then pivoted to the Affordable Care Act and said his goal is to help target the discriminatory health-care policies that place undue burdens on women. He wants to make sure “that women can’t be charged more than men for insurance coverage, that pregnancy isn’t treated as an illness, that contraception is part of a standard package of care that you receive.”
Then he admitted something else — that he hadn’t been aware of the tampon tax issue. “Because the basic idea is that women should not be at a disadvantage in the health-care system, and this is just one more example of — which I confess, I was not aware of until you brought it to my attention.”
Watch the exchange, starting at 45:37 mark in the video below: