Women across Arizona are bombarding a Republican representative’s office with tampons and pads.
The #LetItFlow campaign began over the weekend as a direct response to a bill that stalled in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 2222 looks to provide female inmates in Arizona with an unlimited supply of feminine hygiene products at no cost to the inmates. It also looks to appropriate $80,000 from the fiscal year 2019 general fund to the state Department of Corrections for the purchase of these products.
Women are sending the hygiene products, and sometimes money, to Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope, Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee, who stalled the bill because the DOC is revising its policy. In order for the bill to continue, it must go through the rules committee.
“It just seems cruel and absurd to make women barter and beg and plead for what should be a basic human right, which is access to sanitation and hygiene products,” said Christy Chavis of Phoenix who sent $20 on Monday.
“If we continue to pressure Rep. Shope and the legislature, they may think it’s a cause worth their time and won’t pass the buck to the DOC,” Chavis said.
Democratic Rep. Athena Salman introduced the bill and said currently incarcerated women are given 12 pads a month and if they run out they have to buy more themselves.
Matthew Specht, House of Representatives Republican Caucus spokesman, said in a statement to CNN the mailed products haven’t arrived yet.
“If/when those come in, we’re exploring whether they can be donated to the Arizona Department of Corrections,” Specht said in an email. “If not, Representative Shope would like to donate them to a women’s shelter in his district.”
‘The basic dignity of being a woman’
During a February 5 committee hearing, Salman and former inmates spoke in support of the bill. Salman said the current distribution of 12 pads a month is unfair because incarcerated women are paid 15 cents an hour, but a 16-pack of pads are $3.20 and a 10-pack of tampons are $2.05 in prisons. Salman told CNN she thinks the bill struck a nerve.
“This issue speaks to the basic dignity of being a woman,” she said Tuesday. “By denying women additional pads and no free tampons, that is violating a woman’s dignity and that’s fundamentally wrong.”
The bill passed through the all-male Military Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee with a 5-4 vote.
“I walked away thinking my male colleagues learned something from the committee,” Salman said.
Salman said Shope spoke with the DOC and the bill was stalled because they were revising their policy.
A stalled bill
On Tuesday, Specht said the DOC “will now provide female inmates with sufficient feminine hygiene products.”
“In light of the Arizona Department of Correction’s decision to revise their administrative policy on feminine hygiene products, HB 2222 would now be redundant and Rep. Shope does not intend to hear it in the House Rules Committee,” Specht said.
Neither Shope nor Salman have seen the revisions.
Salman said it’s not fair to future female inmates for her bill not to become law because future government administrations can change the rule if needed.
“We haven’t seen the policy so it’s inappropriate for Rep. Shope to hold the bill without talking to the stakeholders, including the women who were formerly incarcerated and the attorney who is monitoring the women’s prison,” she said.
“This is so fundamental to the dignity of women, you can’t leave this up to chance that future administrations will change this rule back. The women of Arizona deserve for this to be in statute.”
Salman said she’ll be meeting with the DOC and the governor’s office Tuesday. Specht was not aware of any future meetings with Shope, the DOC or the governor’s office.
“It is very peculiar that the bill is being stalled by the chairman who is only talking to the governor’s agency, the DOC, and not talking to the formerly incarcerated women who lived through this nightmare,” she said.