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Press Release - December 3, 2020

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women - AccessBC Statement


November 25th to December 10th marks this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. One of the most important of those days for Canada is December 6th: The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.


On December 6th, we commemorate the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre, in which 14 women lost their lives and 10 more were injured, simply because they were women encroaching on what their killer perceived to be men’s domain.


Sadly, 31 years after that massacre, violence against women remains an endemic problem in Canada. Rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence are too high, and disproportionately affect women - especially women who are already vulnerable.


One way that intimate partner violence often manifests itself is through reproductive coercion - when one person tries to pressure another into becoming pregnant, refuses to use contraception against their partner's wishes, or sabotages their partner's use of contraception. One US study showed that reproductive coercion is distressingly common: 19% of women experiencing intimate partner violence also experienced pressure from their partner to become pregnant, and 15% experienced birth control sabotage.


“Reproductive coercion is now well-recognized as a too-common form of gender-based violence that is frequently used by abusers against their intimate partners,” says Devon Black, AccessBC co-founder. “Providing safe and free access to contraception gives people in abusive relationships one more tool they can use to keep themselves safe.”


The current COVID-19 pandemic has likely magnified the existing barriers to accessing contraception in our healthcare system. The impact of cost, however, cannot be overstated. The pandemic has caused sweeping layoffs or cuts to hours and, as a result, has squeezed personal budgets tighter than before. This, coupled with the existing patchwork of coverage in our healthcare system, means that patients will continue to fall through the cracks.


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. 

“For people in abusive relationships, these cost barriers can make it impossible to access the contraception, especially if their abuser controls their finances or monitors their health insurance claims,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founder and Chair of AccessBC.

Following the recent provincial election, in which the NDP made free and universal contraception access a part of its platform, AccessBC has launched a new phase of its letter writing campaign. AccessBC is calling on people to write to the Premier and members of cabinet to urge them to include free prescription contraception in the upcoming budget, and ensure that the policy they adopt covers as many forms of prescription contraception as possible. 


“The most effective way to protect against reproductive coercion is to eliminate other barriers that make accessing contraception harder - that’s one reason AccessBC wants to ensure that everyone living in BC can access the prescription contraception that works best for them, as soon as possible,” said Ms. Black. “Universal, no-cost prescription contraception will give everyone access to the tools they need to fight against reproductive coercion, and help ensure that we can all make reproductive choices free from intimidation and violence.”

On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, AccessBC calls on the John Horgan Government to include free contraception in the upcoming 2021 budget, and ensure that the policy it adopts covers as many forms of prescription contraception as possible. 

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