This seems completely absurd, but there is an explanation, albeit an entirely unsatisfactory one. The UK government can’t take the tax off tampons until the EU gives us permission to do so (supposedly later this year) or until after we’ve finished Brexiting away from them. So we’ll see what happens then. In the meantime the government responded to requests to remove the tax by earmarking the money raised by it for funding various organisations that provide services to disadvantaged women. So far, so good. There’s something of an irony that this tax on uterus owners is being used to solve problems inflicted on them by mostly cis men, as the fund has an emphasis on domestic violence groups, but at least the money is being spent back on us.
Somehow though, in amongst the perfectly reasonable organisations like Refuge, the government decided to funnel a not-insignificant sum to Life, an anti-abortion campaign group. To be fair to Life it doesn’t just restrict itself to giving unhelpful and emotionally manipulative phone counselling to pregnant people, or proselytizing to 15year-olds. They also offer help to pregnant people in need of housing and other social services.This is, presumably, the justification for handing them a large sum of cash from a fund intended to help women.
It’s still completely unacceptable.
Even if Life’s share of the tax money is restricted so that they can only use it for social services, by funding that side of their work the government allows them to reallocate existing funds to their anti-abortion campaigning. It also helping Life to survive and thrive as a service provider in a funding-cuts-heavy environment when other agencies who also provide those services without an anti-choice agenda are in desperate need of money. If those agencies then close or simply can’t meet the demand people are going to be forced to turn to Life when they otherwise wouldn’t have, likely leaving them feeling pressured to carry to term. Gratitude and obligation, not to mention physical need, are very powerful forces meted against vulnerable persons.
Then there’s that by funding Life the government is giving them their tacit approval, something they’ve already done once before by inviting them to take part in a government sexual health panel. Life’s policy is, unsurprisingly, abstinence only — something which not only doesn’t work but has been proven to deliver worse outcomes, making their inclusion questionable at best. When combined with the exclusion of veteran abortion provider and sexual health service BPAS it becomes a troubling statement about what the government prioritises when it comes to sex, health and bodily autonomy. This is particularly worrying right now as we have just managed to bring forward a bill decriminalising abortion for the first time since the Victorian period (for more about how abortion isn’t technically legal in the UK and our labyrinthine and inappropriate abortion laws see my previous article). The government needs to know that we support increasing abortion rights, not suppressing them, and that it is absolutely unacceptable to force uterus owners to fund an organisation trying to restrict our bodily autonomy.
So how do we start? This link provides a guide to contacting your MP on social media and by email. Demand an explanation of why they’re funding this charity until they give one and then let them know what you think of their answer. While you’re at it remind them that we want abortion fully decriminalised.
Considering that AFAB children are currently actually missing school because they can’t afford to buy sanitary products you might want to suggest they redirect some of the money there instead. Or to a rape crisis centre in Scotland, as none of them received any of tampon tax funding either. Make as much of a fuss as possible on social media, too, because nothing is as effective as embarrassment and bad PR to motivate a politician. The twitter hashtags #tampon and #TamponTax are a good place to start.