January 10, 2020
AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception building momentum
AccessBC is a province-wide campaign that advocates for universal no-cost prescription contraception in British Columbia. AccessBC is currently running a letter-writing campaign to urge the BC Government to include this policy in the 2020 provincial budget, which comes out in mid-February. The AccessBC campaign has been building some serious momentum, with groups and organizations adding their support and hundreds of letters pouring in from across the province.
"We've been able to feel momentum building over the last several months of the campaign. We now have dozens of allies signed on in support, including the Victoria and Vancouver Labour Councils, the Camosun and Victoria Student Societies, the BC Society of Transition Houses, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. This is a policy that BC voters want," said Devon Black, AccessBC Co-Founder.
This momentum comes at an important time, as the BC Government finalizes the 2020 Budget. “We are cautiously optimistic that the policy will be included in the 2020 BC Budget, as the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services recommended that the BC Government explore the provision of free contraception in its Report on the Budget 2020 Consultation,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Chair and Co-Founder of AccessBC. “And when asked, Premier Horgan said that his government is open to funding universal, publicly funded contraception.”
“We are encouraging people who want to see this policy included in the BC Provincial 2020 budget to get involved in our letter-writing campaign. People can quickly and easily write their MLA and the Premier by visiting the AccessBC website,” says Dr. Phelps Bondaroff.
“Public pressure and support for this campaign is the best way to get universal contraception coverage into the 2020 budget," said Black. "If you support our campaign, please let your MLA know now, in the critical final weeks before the budget is released."
Access to contraception is a fundamental human right. People across British Columbia face numerous and compounding barriers to accessing contraception. As a result, many may be forced to employ less reliable methods, methods that do not work for them, or no methods at all. As a result, too many people suffer negative health outcomes, and unintended pregnancies.
Unintended pregnancy can:
Come with high personal costs, and derail life plans;
Have higher risks of negative health impacts for both the parent and child; and
Have significant costs to our health and social services systems.
Choice should be the driver for people seeking contraception - not cost. An intra-uterine 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 fall disproportionately particularly on people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities. Our clinicians at Options and other Canadian contraceptive care providers identify cost as the single most important barrier to access.
A 2015 study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated that the cost of delivering universal contraception in Canada would be $157 million, but the savings - for direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy alone - would be approximately $320 million.
Options for Sexual Health (2010) estimated that every $1 spent on contraceptive support for a woman can save as much as $90 in public spending expenditure on social supports. This 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.
Unfettered access to one’s contraception of choice:
Promotes better overall health outcomes;
Encourages effective sex ed policy; and
Saves the system money.
The solution proposed by AccessBC is that the provincial government make all methods of contraception available in BC universally accessible, at no cost.
AccessBC calls on the Government of British Columbia and the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the 2020 budget includes provisions to make all forms of prescription contraception be made universally accessible and free for any citizen.
Furthermore, we call 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 preference of the individual seeking the contraception.
It is time for BC to join numerous other jurisdictions that have adopted similar measures to remove barriers to accessing contraception, such as the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.
“Money should never be a barrier to someone accessing their rights,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff. “Anyone should be able to exercise their right to say what happens to their body, and to decide when - or if - they have children.”
“Removing cost as a barrier to accessing contraception promotes equality,” says Devon Black. “The costs of prescription contraception fall disproportionately on women and people with uteruses.”