Women have always faced equality barriers in our society. Some of those have been fundamental core civil rights, like the right to vote and the ongoing fight for equal pay. And then there are other issues of equality and fairness that are placed on women that seem purposely petty and dubious. This is especially true when it comes to access to and taxing of menstrual products.

Earlier this month, California's Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 367 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, requiring schools (grades six to 12), community colleges, California State University system and the University of California system to provide free menstrual products. This new law is an important turning point in the state and a beacon for the country. This law recognizes the impact and importance menstrual products have on the well-being of girls and women.

For school-age girls, the issue of access to menstrual products is directly related to education opportunities. The “State of the Period” study, published in 2019 by Thinx and Period, showed that out of 1,000 teens ages 13 to 19 surveyed, “4 in 5 teens have either missed class time or know a classmate who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.” California’s simple law removes this barrier and allows teen girls to feel secure in attending school and breaks down a potentially significant education barrier.

Assembly Bill 367 is truly groundbreaking and demonstrates an understanding of how valuable girls and women are — and will continue to be — for California. As a state, they understand that providing girls and women with these products freely demonstrates their commitment to supporting their girls, women and human rights. California, through this law, demonstrates that they see girls and women as valuable, wanted, needed, supported and equal in society. Yes, something as simple as providing access to menstrual products is truly an act of empowerment and sets the foundation for further actions on issues regarding gender equity in our society.

While California and other states made progress on basic human rights for girls and women, with laws addressing access to menstrual products, other states continue to lead the way to turn back the clock on gender equity. This is especially true in the areas of women’s health.

Once again, a quick look at issues surrounding menstrual products becomes a clear sign of where states stand on the bigger issue of equal rights for women and girls. One of the more prominent issues around menstrual products is the ongoing taxation of those products by many states. States like Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and 22 others continue to punish women and girls for simply being women and girls.

This ongoing women and girls tax for products necessary for our lives cost women and girls collectively $120 million per year. Imagine what women and girls could do with that money in their pockets.

At the same time that 27 states continue to tax women and girls for necessary menstrual products, a state like Texas is gutting women's rights to control their own bodies and make their own health decisions. The new law, known nationally as SB 8 or Texas Heartbeat Law, puts in place a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. This law, one they say is based on protecting life, is so draconian that it has no exception for medical emergencies or cases where a woman or girl is impregnated due to rape or incest. The law has vague language on aiding and abetting, illegal six-week/heartbeat language and private citizen enforcement language that brings so many issues with it. Texas has taken control over women's bodies and taken away their rights.

Texas, it seems, is unable and unwilling to embrace the basic needs of equality for all Texans. For women in Texas, we are taxed for simply existing. Texas makes an estimated $24.9 million per year in tax revenue from taxing menstrual products and we are treated as property with no say over our own bodies. They say “Don’t Mess With Texas” but I guess those words only apply to men. Maybe the real reason for having a “lone star” on the state flag is to ensure that only one gender matters and fully enjoys equal protection under state laws.

While states like California are supporting and appreciating women and girls, states like Texas continue to take large steps toward their goal of controlling and oppressing women and girls. 

For Generation Z, it seems we are entering a time where we will have to take collective action to ensure that we secure control over our bodies and have a healthy life.

Recently the Supreme Court decided to keep the Texas abortion ban in place as they agreed to review the law in a hearing on November 1, 2021. Because of this, conversations relating to women's rights across the country at this moment are particularly important. These state laws that are being litigated and challenged right now could easily be the law that stands for years to come. We could easily be heading into a future — just as Gen Z women are heading into our prime reproductive years — where we lose control over our bodies.

Gen Z women and girls must have a united voice advocating for laws and programs that states like California now have. We need to express our support, speak up and speak out, protest to the polls, vote, engage our policymakers and work to change the laws. We must be the change we want to see.

It is so important that Gen Z watches, learns and takes action to become the change we want to see when it comes to this most basic fundamental action of ensuring human rights for women and girls in our nation.


Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in her third year of law school at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May of 2019, she became Texas Woman's University's youngest graduate in history when she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w/Gen Z. Follow all of her endeavors on Instagram and Twitter.