Press Release - February 22, 2022
AccessBC Campaign Disappointed to see Yet Another Provincial Budget Without Free Prescription Contraception
The AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception expresses its disappointment that the 2022 BC provincial budget was released today without a clear commitment to fund free contraception for all.
“Today’s budget was a missed opportunity for the BC NDP to fulfil its election promise to provide free contraception for everyone in BC,” said AccessBC co-founder and chair Teale Phelps Bondaroff. “Universal no-cost prescription contraception improves maternal and infant health, increases equality, makes life more affordable, and will save the government millions of dollars, and it is very disappointing that another budget has passed without a clear commitment to this important policy.”
“The effects of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected people who identify as women and specifically, women of colour who are essential workers,” said AccessBC Campaign Coordinator and Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident Physician Dr. Ruth Habte. “Universal access to contraception would help ease this burden with respect to reproductive health care, and is overdue.”
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in BC 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.
“There is no ambiguity surrounding the cost-savings of universal no-cost contraceptive policies,” says Dr. Habte. “Unintended pregnancies cost our healthcare system and patients directly. Continuing to wait to implement the policy leads to more unintended pregnancies and cost to our already strained healthcare system.”
An intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, hormone injections as much as $180 per year, and an implant around $350. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC, and fall disproportionately on women and people who can get pregnant.
“We’ve heard very clearly from BC residents that this policy is something they want. Over the course of our letter writing campaign, people have sent tens of thousands of letters to BC MLAs,” said Phelps Bondaroff. “In their election platform, the BC NDP said it’s time to make contraception free for all, that was in 2020, free prescription contraception is overdue, it’s time for this election promise to be fulfilled.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, with the cost of living rising, BC cannot continue to delay making sure that those who can get pregnant have free and universal access to the necessary medication to control when, if, and how they become pregnant,” says Jessica L. Jimmo, Master of Public Policy candidate, and AccessBC Campaign volunteer. “Universal no-cost prescription contraception as a policy just makes good sense and the social, fiscal, health and equity benefits are irrefutable.”
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. The campaign’s call for free contraception has been endorsed by 29 municipalities and districts across BC, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), as well as by a wide range of civil society organizations and unions.
“The costs of not having full reproductive choice are too high for all British Columbians, not just for those who have a uterus,” said Jimmo. “AccessBC will keep pushing hard until this election promise has been met!”