Ohio House Just Passed a Bill to End 'Pink Tax' on Tampons While Gop Senators Push for Bill to Jail Women Who Have Abortions

Ohio House representatives passed a bill proposing an end the "tampon tax," the sales tax on tampons and other hygiene products that advocates have long argued should be considered basic necessities. 

All but one of the Ohio House lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill 545, which calls for exempting "tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins" and other hygiene products from sale or use taxes starting July 1, 2019, with 91 representatives voting in favor of the measure.

Read more: Ohio considering bill that could see abortions punishable by death 

The only dissenter in the House was Republican Tom Brinkman, according to the Ohio Legislature's website. 

Democratic State Representative Brigid Kelly, who was a primary sponsor of the original bill to end the tampon tax, which was folded into Wednesday's sale tax bill, celebrated the vote as a victory for women and families across the state. 

"I am really happy that we are taking action on this now," Kelly said. "Making medically necessary products more accessible to women in Ohio is just a good common sense policy that will help women and their households to attend work, school community functions and things like that," she said.

Kelly said she also believes that products like tampons, sanitary napkins and other items typically referred to as "hygiene products" should be considered "medical products." 

"It's important because that is the reality," she said. "It's certainly not a luxury product because women need feminine hygiene products to go to school, to go to work and to go to community events. It's not something you just decide you want to go out and purchase. It's for a completely natural bodily function."

The tampon tax is seen as part of a larger phenomenon, known as the "pink tax," which advocates say is a form of gender-based price discrimination in which products marketed toward women are generally more expensive than those marketed toward men, including sanitary products, clothing and children's toys. 

Bill 545 will now be headed to the Ohio Senate for consideration, where Kelly hopes to see the measure pass. If it is approved, Ohio will join several states that have already dropped the tampon tax, including New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida. 

GettyImages-942101482 Ohio's House of Representatives has passed a bill to end sales tax on tampons and other hygiene products unique to women. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty

While Kelly hailed the bill's success as a win for women in Ohio, Kelly said she was also cognizant of efforts to strip away the reproductive rights of women in the state, with two new bills threatening to impose stringent bans on abortion. 

On Thursday, the state's Republican-controlled Senate opted to delay a potential vote on one of the measures, Bill 258, which seeks to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That period typically falls around the six-week mark, a time when many women are not yet even aware they are pregnant. 

Citing amendments submitted by both Republican and Democratic members, the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee decided to adjourn on Thursday morning without moving to advance the measure, known as the "heartbeat" bill, to a floor vote according to The Columbus Dispatch. 

Pro-abortion rights advocates have railed against the measure, which includes no exceptions for rape and incest. The only exceptions it does allow for are in cases in which pregnancy could endanger the life of the woman or cause her substantial bodily harm. 

Despite their protests, however, within days of passing the "heartbeat bill," Ohio Republicans also began to consider a measure seeking to ban abortion in the state and potentially make abortions a criminal act punishable by life in prison, or even the death penalty. 

That piece of proposed legislation, House Bill 565, seeks to extend the definition of a "person" in Ohio's criminal code to include "unborn" humans." 

If passed, that bill would categorize a fetus, from conception to birth, as a person, which could leave those who undergo or perform abortions vulnerable to severe criminal penalties that could equate abortion with murder. 

Kelly said that while she was proud to see lawmakers move in favor of the bid to end the state's tampon tax, she "personally voted against all legislation that would restrict any health care choice that a woman might have.

"Certainly, having access to medical products is important, but having access to reproductive health care choices is important as well," Kelly said. But, she added, "this is an ongoing issue certainly in Ohio and across the country." 

Indeed, efforts to push anti-abortion bills forward have been well underway in recent months across the country. 

In Oklahoma, a Republican senator recently proposed a new bill seeking to ban abortion under "any circumstance" and classify the procedure as "murder," opening up anyone undergoing the procedure to severe sentences, including life imprisonment and, potentially, the death penalty.

And in the recent midterm elections, voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved amendments to their state constitutions that could see reproductive rights protections removed, with Alabama's Amendment 2 seeking to remove the right to abortion, while West Virginia's Amendment 1 sets out to change the state constitution to ensure that the right to abortion is not protected, while also stopping state taxpayer money from being used to cover abortions for those on Medicaid. 

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