Shortages of tampons and infant formula hit hard

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First, Dana Marlowe noticed a drop in donations to her nonprofit, which distributes free menstrual products to women and girls.

Then came a spike in phone calls and messages – all from people unable to find the products they needed. Marlowe skimmed through them as she left her warehouse, pausing to read one aloud.

“I just bled through my pants and had to run to three different stores to find tampons,” said the message sent to her organization, I Support the Girls. “This is absolutely horrific and I have no words.”

Yes, there is a tampon shortage. Here’s why.

Tampons have become the latest product to fall victim to supply chain issues in recent weeks, leaving something essential for many Americans increasingly scarce on store shelves. And the nonprofits that sprung up to fight menstrual poverty are now struggling to fill the void.

For some women, still reeling from the shortage of infant formula plaguing the country, it looks like an attack. Adding to their exasperation is the impending Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade. A leaked draft has heightened expectations that the nation’s abortion rights established nearly 50 years ago could be in its final days. The decision is expected soon, as the Supreme Court usually goes into recess in late June or early July.

Whether deer reversed, abortion could become illegal in half of the United States, and dramatic effects on reproductive care could ensue.

“I’m so frustrated that there’s a shortage of tampons when so many other things are going on for people at the same time,” said Marlowe, of Silver Spring, Maryland. “This follows the shortage of formula milk, so how many do you think I get messages every few hours? It looks like a war on women.

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Where they can be found, tampons now carry higher price tags — a frustration compounded by the fact that they aren’t tax-exempt in most states. The shortage does not seem to extend to tampons, although their prices have also increased.

On Amazon, some boxes of tampons have been listed by third-party sellers for prices as high as $59. A spokesperson said in a statement that Amazon continually assesses pricing fairness.

“We continuously compare the prices submitted by our selling partners with current and historical prices inside and outside our store to determine if the prices are fair,” the statement said. “If we identify a price that violates our policy, we remove the offer and take appropriate action with the seller.”

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The exact impact of deer A decision will be made on the accessibility and price of reproductive care is difficult to predict, experts said. But they say abortions are set to become increasingly expensive, with patients in many states forced to travel for the procedure.

For those without paid leave, the costs will be even higher. An estimate from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research puts the cost of abortion restrictions at the state level at $105 billion per year due to reduced labor force participation, increased staff turnover and furloughs.

Some also worry about the potential ripple effects on another area of ​​reproductive health care: contraceptives. Already, some states are pursuing laws that would define pregnancy as beginning at the time of fertilization, which experts say could call into question the legality of emergency contraceptives such as the morning-after pill and certain types of intrauterine devices. uterus, or IUD.

Clinics in states where abortion will remain legal even if the Supreme Court overturns deer could see a flood of patients from the 26 states where it is likely to be banned, limiting their ability to offer other types of care. Demand may increase for certain types of contraceptives or reproductive services. Or they could become more difficult to access in some states.

“We don’t know,” said Megan Kavanaugh, a research fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center that supports abortion rights. “We don’t have the evidence until it actually happens.”

For some, one thing is already clear: women bear a heavier economic burden.

How were women’s lives different before Roe v. wade

Diamond Cotton, a single mother of three living in Indianapolis who receives food assistance, said the rising prices of tampons had hit her family hard. She has a tween and a teen who also need tampons, and she usually sticks to store brands.

But in recent weeks, they’ve cost several dollars more per box. And sometimes only brand names are available, which forces him to dig deeper into his pocket.

“I’m already trying to make sure our bills are paid, but now I have to find the extra $10 to $15 to buy tampons,” Cotton, 32, said. She added, “If I can even find them.”

At Scribner-Snyder Community Schools, a small public district in rural Dodge County, Neb., where 68 percent of the student body is considered economically disadvantaged, more students than ever before applied for swabs from guidance counselor Leah Fischer at the end of the 2021-22 school year. The products in the bathrooms cost 25 cents — an amount she says can add up to her student population.

“With our low-income population, they have to prioritize their needs — gas and getting to work and things like that,” Fischer said. “It’s going to make it harder for our families to take care of this need.”

School district superintendents could meet this summer to discuss budgeting for menstrual products for students, said Megan Reese, a community liaison who works with 16 area school districts. If they can’t reach an agreement, Reese said she plans to organize a community campaign. She plans to argue that “schools already provide toilet paper and paper towels – why don’t they provide tampons?”

Long before the current shortage, a number of non-profit organizations sprung up across the country to help provide menstrual products to people who were low-income, in school, homeless, or incarcerated. But now these groups are struggling to deliver aid amid the shortage.

PERIOD based in Portland, Oregon. distributed 3.7 million pieces of menstrual products to schools, shelters, churches and other organizations in 2020, service manager Kate Barker Swindell said. That number fell to 1.3 million in 2021. So far this year, the organization has only been able to donate 212,000 items, after donations from major manufacturers slowed significantly.

“We have a waiting list that has been closed since the end of April,” Barker Swindell said. “I think at this point it’s over 550 organizations. It’s just way too much, and it’s really awful to continually take names and information and say, “Sorry, we don’t have anything. ”

The U.S. tampon supply is “very consolidated,” said Jamie Rosenberg, associate director of global household and personal care for researcher Mintel Group. There are only two main manufacturers: Procter and Gamble and Kimberly Clark.

Supply chains are global and prone to issues, including labor shortages and pandemic-induced disruptions, Rosenberg said. And while people may think of a tampon as a simple product, he said, they depend on complex, globally interconnected supply chains. Some brands use cotton, for example, which requires fertilizer. Russia is one of the world’s leading fertilizer producers. his invasion of Ukraine disrupted world trade.

“It was a perfect supply chain disaster storm that is limiting the delivery of these products,” Rosenberg said.

For Marlowe of I Support the Girls, this limited delivery means “our shelves are empty”. The non-profit organization was able to donate half of its normal production in the first six months of this year – 218,000 tampons. And, like PERIOD., it has a long waiting list of organizations in need.

I Support the Girls affiliates across the country informed Marlowe of reclaimed female care aisles in cities ranging from Denver to Racine, Wis., to New York. Her inbox is now so full that she has trouble receiving messages.

“We kind of expect to be able to go into our stores and find the products we need,” Marlowe said. “It’s like we’re hit from all sides.”

She added, “It looks pretty ugly to be a woman in the United States in 2022.”

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