Feminine products denied to disabled women in nursing homes and other institutions; Forced medication to minimize menstruation

From a notice on a disability listserv:

I am forwarding this on behalf of Feminist Response in Disability Activism (FRIDA), a newly established feminist disability rights organization based in Chicago, founded by a collective of highly skilled and committed disability rights community organizers.

On August 3, 2006, F.R.I.D.A (Feminist Response in Disability Activism) held a Town Hall meeting in Chicago for women with disabilities. One of the issues that emerged from the Town Hall was the fact that many women with disabilities living in nursing homes and institutions are:

1. Not provided with pads and tampons (even though this is required by federal regulations mandating that nursing homes provide certain supplies for residents on Medicaid or Medicare, including sanitary napkins and related supplies);

2. Told they have to buy pads and tampons out of the $30 they receive monthly from their SSI allowance (yep, the rest of their money – $603/month – goes to the nursing home and institution);

3. Not allowed to leave the facility to purchase the pads and tampons due to a “level policy” recently instituted in many Chicago nursing homes that prohibits residents from going on “family visits or independent passes” unless several strict requirements are met; and

4. As a result, some nursing home/institution staff are forcibly suppressing the periods of women with disabilities through continual DepoProvera and other methods so staff don’t have to “deal with the mess.”


It should! Access to feminine products is a fundamental aspect of reproductive choice!


You can help by donating a box of pads or tampons to the F.R.I.D.A. Pad Patrol. We will make sure the items get into the hands of the women with disabilities who need them.

FRIDA can also take checks or cash to pay for these items; checks should be made out to FRIDA with a note for “pads and tampons”.

Send your pads/tampons to:

F.R.I.D.A. Pad Patrol Distribution Center
C/o Sarah Triano, Access Living
614 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60607

Know a woman with a disability who is being denied access to pads/tampons? Then send her our way and we’ll set her up!

At the FRIDA website, they explain why this isn’t simply a matter to be put to legal action:

In response to some questions about the Pad Patrol, FRIDA is fully aware that in cases where nursing homes or institutions fail to provide sanitary napkins as dictated by federal law, legal recourse is necessary in case where informal negotiation is not successful. We are in full agreement that systemic change is the only way to ensure long term justice. We do, however, feel that systemic change can be achieved on multiple levels. Some folks have asked whether, in distributing sanitary napkins and tampons to nursing homes, we would enable the nursing homes to continue evading the law.

Our viewpoint is as follows… First, in conducting outreach for a pad drive (which has reached as far as Australia) we are exposing a problem in a system, a problem that many feel a personal connection to. Anyone would be shocked by the idea that someone would have to blow their whole allowance on sanitary napkins or else sit in a crust of their own blood. Add to that the fact that showers are often regulated and you must bathe on a schedule. Sometimes, by relating to something so graphically everyday, we can push awareness of the problem to a critical mass of public opinion.

Second, the larger problem beyond the lack of sanitary napkins and the suppression of periods is the entire system of nursing homes and institutions in which so many people with disabilities become trapped. While the average person will be shocked by the pad issue, they will hopefully also learn a little to care about the wider problems of institutionalization. FRIDA feels, as does ADAPT and many other groups, that we would much prefer to live in our own homes with community supports for our needs, rather than in nursing homes, institutions or group homes. In the end, we see that a feminist issue is really a human issue.

Third, and maybe most pragmatically, the woman who is having her period in 3 days cannot wait for a lawsuit to be settled in five years. There is a final question which FRIDA needs to answer to the public, and that is whether this problem really exists, and whether there are women who are willing to speak out about this issue. There are in fact such women but at this time their identities are protected by confidentiality. FRIDA is working to identify women who are willing to speak out. If you or someone you know is willing to testify and let people know what’s really going on with women’s rights in nursing homes and institutions, get in touch….

More contact information available at the FRIDA site.

Crossposted at The Gimp Parade
Check there for more comments

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Disabled Rights & Issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

12 Responses to Feminine products denied to disabled women in nursing homes and other institutions; Forced medication to minimize menstruation

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  5. 5
    Lauren says:

    1. How disabled are we talking? Would something like LunaPads (www.lunapads.com, washable & reuseable pads) be helpful, or are the majority of the women unable to change pads themselves and wash them in the sink? Who’s distributing the goods? If we send some reusable pads, would they get to women able to use them?

    2. So is staff refusing to deal with menstruation because they don’t want to, and are denying access to pads because of that? Or is it the othe way ’round, where there’s no access and so they are working around it with menstrual suppression? If the former, I’m worried that having a glut of products will still not make a difference at those sites where BC is being forcibly administered.

  6. 6
    Blue says:

    I would guess luna pads would be a problem, though they’d be the coolest solution. I think in an institutional setting where there are so many regulations about sanitary and sometimes even sterile conditions, the disposable pads are the ones that would get used. I think it’s likely these women need help with most toileting.

    These are good questions I don’t have an answer for. I’d like to think the practicality of some employees would lead to less or no new women forcibly administered BC. Or the ones for whom it presents a medical risk would have a ready option with a supply of pads available. Hopefully, there’ll be more information forthcoming from FRIDA.

  7. 7
    Pony says:

    I imagine staff are refusing to deal with the menstrual supplies issue because they are now applying the standard of care to disabled women of reproductive age which they have always applied to elderly women. Two diapers a day maximum, left for hours and hours in their own feces, urine running down their legs, diapers and peri pads, shampoo, hand lotion and toothpast etc bought out of old age pension, fed primarily Enfalac and given enemas to cut down on having to change diapers. This has been going on for some time, with no one really caring when it comes to old women. Oh everyone gives it lip service.

  8. 8
    Blue says:

    Very true, Pony. All of it needs to be changed.

  9. 9
    belledame222 says:

    jesus fucking christ.

  10. 10
    Pony says:

    Forced medicating in nursing homes isn’t new. I haven’t the cite here, but I have read that women in nursing homes who complained about shoddy care, advocated for better care and services, were given anti-psychotics to make them compliant. I have also read that nursing home residents have been used to test drugs, and this was known and allowed by the nursing home management who were paid by pharmaceutical companies to do this, but it was not done with the awareness or permission of nursing home residents or their families.

  11. 11
    Blue says:

    I’ve heard all that too, Pony. I believe many nursing homes are very dangerous places, and much like prisons, to the people living in them.

  12. 12
    Pony says:

    With the pharma push now for Seasonale and other such BC drugs, I wonder if nursing home management is receiving funds from pharmaceutical companies to enrol women to these newer bc drugs.

    I don’t think bandaid action achieves much. Rather it is better to take it higher, lobby and petition elected representatives (particularly in light of an upcoming election) for change overall, using this as an example of an accepted substand of care and loss of civil rights that is delivered to all nursing home residents.