Press Release - September 14, 2020
New Westminster Supports No-Cost Prescription Contraception
On September 14th, 2020, New Westminster City Council unanimously passed a motion calling on the Provincial Government to cover all prescription contraception at no cost under the BC Medical Services Plan, and urging other municipalities to do the same.
“I am thrilled to see New Westminster reflect the voice of its citizens and pass this motion," said Jessica L. Jimmo, a Master of Public Policy student, New Westminster resident, and member of the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception in BC. “Universal no-cost prescription contraception as a policy just makes good sense and the social, fiscal, health and equity benefits are irrefutable! There are an incredible number of reasons why this policy is long overdue but now, during COVID, we cannot delay making sure those who have uteruses have free and universal access to the necessary medication to control when, if and how they become pregnant.”
Jonathan Cote, Mayor of the City of New Westminster, said “Voting to support this policy was an easy decision. Now more than ever, especially in the face of COVID, governments need to look at how to reduce barriers and unfair financial burdens to ensure individuals are able to control their reproductive futures.”
The motion was moved by Councillor Nadine Nakagawa. “Access to contraception is a critical part of our healthcare system, yet we see that MSP coverage is a highly gendered issue. Including contraception under MSP will expand access and provide better health outcomes. It’s the right thing to do,” said Councillor Nakagawa.
“I really believe all aspects of reproduction and family planning should be fully a part of our public health care system,” commented Councillor Jaimie McEvoy.
“The message from the New Westminster Council is clear, our public health care system is falling short and universal no-cost access to prescription contraception is a necessary next step,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founder and committee chair of AccessBC.
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in BC could save the provincial government as much as $95 million per year. That pattern of savings has been seen in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Italy and Germany, which all subsidize prescription contraception in full or in part.
“People with uteruses are often paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket for contraception,” said Devon Black, co-founder of AccessBC. “Meanwhile, vasectomies are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan and condoms are handed out for free. That kind of structural inequality is just not acceptable in 2020.”
Currently, 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. These costs are a significant barrier in accessing contraception for many people in BC, and make it much harder for BC residents to freely make their own reproductive choices.
“A study from 2016 from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that as many as 61% of women have had an unintended pregnancy with a whooping 59,000 young people under the age of 24 having had an unintended pregnancy. Covid is expecting to see these numbers rise and all sides of the aisles can agree that unintended pregnancies can lead to dire outcomes that everyone wants to avoid,” explains Jessica L. Jimmo “if fact, we may even begin to see evidence of this in BC within a few months!”
“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. Phelps Bondaroff. “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.”
The motion also includes a call to action for other municipalities across BC, with New Westminster writing to urge them to support the policy. This comes a week before the meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) which will consider two resolutions (from Victoria and Burnaby) calling on the provincial government to make app prescription contraception in the province available at no cost under MSP.
MOTION: Universal access to no-cost prescription contraception, Councillor Nakagawa
WHEREAS cost is a significant barrier to people accessing contraception, particularly to people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities; and
WHEREAS providing free prescription contraception has been shown to improve health outcomes for parents and infants by reducing the risks associated with unintended pregnancy, and is likely to reduce direct medical costs on the provincial health system; and
WHEREAS contraceptive methods such as condoms or vasectomies are available at low cost, no cost, or are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan, whereas all contraceptive methods for people with uteruses (such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or hormone injections) have high up-front costs, making access to contraception unequal and gendered;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT the City of New Westminster write to the Provincial Minister of Finance, the Provincial Minister of Health, the Premier of BC, and the local MLA supporting universal no-cost access to all prescription contraception available in BC under the Medical Services Plan; and
THAT this letter be forwarded to all BC municipalities asking to write their support as well.
Union of British Columbia Municipalities Resolutions
See resolutions EB76 (Victoria) and EB77 (Burnaby) - Pages 88-89 in the 2020 UBCM Resolutions Book.