Media Advisory - February 7, 2022
AccessBC Campaign Statement for Black History Month
During Black History Month, the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception is reflecting on the contributions of Black folks to reproductive health care and the unique challenges experienced by racialized folks when seeking reproductive healthcare.
“Black people and racialized communities are disproportionately harmed when contraception is difficult to access, such as for reasons related to cost,” says Dr. Ruth Habte, Obstetrics & Gynaecology Resident Physician and campaign organizer at AccessBC. “Cost is compounded with other barriers, such as availability, the need to take time off work, arranging childcare, and navigating a healthcare system.”
Those in racialized communities who are immigrants or refugees may also have increased difficulty accessing and navigating health services in Canada and existing prescription subsidy programs. A 2014 Canadian study found the unmet contraceptive need amongst refugees to be 26.8%, substantially higher than the global estimate of 12.3%.
While disaggregated race-based data is not routinely collected in Canada, a survey done in the United States found that 61% of Black reproductive-aged women felt that they could not afford birth control. Black women are over three times more likely to have uterine fibroids, a condition which can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding. A common treatment for fibroids is prescription hormonal contraceptives, which help decrease the amount of menstrual bleeding. Notably, racialized women earn 32% less income and 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty (compared to 1 in 20 non-racialized families). As a result, many racialized folks will face significant barriers to accessing necessary medications, including contraceptives.
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, and a contraceptive implant costs around $350. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC.
“I would be remiss to not acknowledge the distressing history of contraceptives as it relates to Black folks and other racialized communities.” says Dr. Habte. “For years, those with a uterus were sterilized without their consent, which understandably led to distrust in reproductive healthcare. While the impact is felt to this day and the medical community is taking active steps to prevent reproductive coercion, many patients have trouble obtaining their contraceptive of choice due to cost. By making all birth control free, we ensure that moving forward these folks and others will have ready access to their contraceptive of choice.”
AccessBC continues to call on the BC NDP to fulfill their election promise to make all forms of prescription contraception universally accessible at no cost.
Furthermore, we urge the BC NDP to take a reproductive justice approach to the implementation of universal no-cost contraception. This approach would ensure equitable access amongst community members in racialized groups along with other groups disproportionately affected by lack of access to contraception.
“The evidence is clear - unintended pregnancies are costly, both to our healthcare system and to patients directly,” says Dr. 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. Making contraception free will help all patients with a uterus, but especially those disproportionately affected by lack of access to contraception.”
"Racist, colonial policies and practices continue to shape Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour’s access to reproductive healthcare. This is further complicated by intersections such as class and citizenship status,” says Emily Wiesenthal, medical student and AccessBC campaign member. “Anti-racism is critical to meaningful reproductive justice work.”