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Chicago just stopped taxing women for having periods

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Chicago’s City Council voted unanimously yesterday to get rid of the sales tax on tampons and pads, becoming one of the first major US cities to do so.

The council voted to reclassify the feminine hygiene products as "medical necessities," exempting them from taxation. Right now they are subject to a 10.25 percent sales tax, a combination of city and state taxes.

The vote will only remove Chicago’s portion of that tax, which is a modest 1.25 percent. Removing the rest of the sales tax would require action at the state level.

Still, Chicago’s action puts the city at the forefront of a national movement to remove taxation on products considered basic necessities that only women are forced to buy. Advocates say the tax amounts to a penalty on women who have periods.

So far, seven states, including Illinois, are considering measures to exempt these products from their sales tax codes. Five states have already made the change, and Canada removed sales taxes on feminine hygiene products this past summer.

Go deeper:

  • Here’s a handy map of all the states that tax pads and tampons.
  • Five women have brought the issue to court. They’re suing New York for its tampon tax, which they consider unlawful.
  • There’s a much larger problem here. Products marketed for women often cost more than identical products targeted at men. It’s a "hidden tax," according to Vox’s Libby Nelson.