Press Release - For Immediate Release – August 25, 2020
Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services Recommends Free Prescription Contraception for Second Year Running
On Friday, August 21, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released its Report on the Budget 2021 Consultation, and members of the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception are applauding its recommendation on contraception. Recommendation 79 reads as follows: “Provide free prescription contraception for all people in British Columbia” (p.69).
“This is a big step up from last year’s recommendations when the committee called on the government to ‘explore the provision of free contraception in a targeted and incremental manner,’” says Devon Black, AccessBC co-founder. “Even before COVID-19, too many BC residents were unable to access this kind of basic health care. COVID-19 has made accessing contraception even harder, and as the Standing Committee has acknowledged, the government needs to step up and address the problem.”
Cost remains a significant barrier to people accessing contraception, particularly to people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities. An intrauterine device (IUD) can cost between $75 and $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, and hormone injections can cost as much as $180 per year. The result is that too many BC residents use less effective methods of contraception – or simply go without.
“Programs that offer free prescription contraception have been shown to save significantly more money than they cost to put in place. The cost of providing prescription contraception is considerably lower than the costs of unintended pregnancy,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founder and committee chair of AccessBC. “At a time when the government is looking for ways to respond to the cost impacts of COVID-19, this is a creative solution that would save money while improving health outcomes for BC residents.”
A 2010 study by Options for Sexual Health estimated that every $1 spent on contraceptive support can save as much as $90 in public expenditure on social supports. Their study estimated that the BC government could save as much as $95 million annually if it implemented a program of universal access to prescription contraception.
“We’re glad the Standing Committee has seen, for the second year in a row, that contraception access in BC is a problem that needs a solution,” said Ms. Black. “We strongly encourage the government to implement the Standing Committee’s recommendation in the 2021 budget.”
The goal of the AccessBC campaign is to ensure that prescription contraception be made available to BC residents at no cost. More information about the campaign is available online at www.accessbc.org.
The Full Report on the Budget 2021 Consultation can be found here.
On July 27, 2020 during Budget Estimates, Minister of Health, Adrian Dix (MLA Vancouver-Kingsway) was asked if the government would fund all prescription contraception at no cost to the users, and therefore include universal no-cost prescription contraception in the upcoming 2021 budget by Health Critic, Norm Letnick (MLA Kelowna-Lake Country).
“That’s something that we will be considering this fiscal year, but would await a future budget year, because it’s not funded in the current year’s budget,” Minister Dix responded. He did note that it was a proposal that was being considered and an issue under active review.
The full exchange between Mr. Dix and Mr. Letnick, as well as AccessBC’s response is available here.
The 2017 BC NDP convention endorsed universal access to no cost prescription contraception when it passed the following resolution:
WHEREAS cost is often a barrier to people accessing prescription birth control;
And WHEREAS the cost of prescription birth control falls disproportionately on women, and especially on women who may already face barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health care;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT Section 3.1 k of the policy book be amended to read:
3.1 New Democrats believe in:
k. Establishing a comprehensive policy on reproductive health, including free universal access to prescription birth control.