Press Release - April 20, 2021
AccessBC Statement on the 2021 BC Provincial Budget Release
The AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception expresses its disappointment that the 2021 BC provincial budget was released today without a clear commitment to fund free contraception for all.
“Providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage isn’t just good public health policy,” said AccessBC co-founder and chair Teale Phelps Bondaroff. “It’s also good fiscal policy, as we’ve seen over and over in jurisdictions where this kind of policy has been implemented. Today’s budget was a missed opportunity for the NDP to fulfill its election promise to provide free contraception for everyone in BC.”
“The effects of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected women, who are more likely to do high-contact, economically insecure, and unprotected work, while increasing their care burdens at home and leaving them at greater risk for domestic violence,” said AccessBC co-founder Devon Black. “Access to contraception isn’t a silver bullet, but it is one way to help combat the gender inequalities that this pandemic has aggravated.”
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in BC would likely cost approximately $50 million, but would save as much as $95 million per year. That pattern of savings has been borne out in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, which all subsidize prescription contraception in full or in part.
“The evidence is clear - unintended pregnancies are costly, both to our healthcare system and to patients directly,” said AccessBC committee member and Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident Physician Ruth Habte. “Data has continued to demonstrate the cost saving effect of universal access to contraceptives, especially the hormonal intrauterine devices, an option currently out of reach for many patients due to cost.”
An intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, and hormone injections as much as $180 per year. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC.
The Ministry of Health Service Plan for 2021/22 - 2023/24, also released today, included a commitment to support equitable access to contraception for all, including access to free prescription contraception. However, no funding was allocated in the budget to fulfill that commitment.
“We’ve heard very clearly from BC residents that this policy is something they want, both through our campaign and during the last provincial election,” said Phelps Bondaroff. “Contraception costs hit people in their wallets, but this is also an equality issue, since contraception costs are so much higher for people with uteruses.”
“In their election platform, the BC NDP said it’s time to make contraception free for all,” added Black. “We agree - and we hope they’ll fulfill that promise.”
AccessBC continues to call on the BC NDP to fulfil their election promise to make all forms of prescription contraception universally accessible at no cost.
Furthermore, AccessBC calls on the government to ensure that all community clinics, hospitals, and identified health care sites are supported to carry a full complement of contraception to ensure that choice is available based on the needs and personal preferences of the individual seeking the contraception.
AccessBC will continue the fight for universal, no-cost prescription contraception coverage in BC with the support of its allies and supporters across the province.
“We will keep fighting for universal free contraception,” said Black. “For BC residents who can’t afford to exercise full reproductive choice, the costs are just too high.”