Press Release - July 30, 2021
City of Courtenay Council Calls on Provincial Government to Make All Prescription Contraception Free
On Monday, July 26, 2021, Courtenay municipal council voted to send a letter of support to the provincial government, calling on it to make all prescription contraception universally available at no cost. The motion follows a delegation presentation by AccessBC at the July 19th, 2021 Council meeting.
Courtenay is the 23rd municipality/district to individually endorse universal, no-cost coverage of prescription contraception in the province. The growing list of municipalities includes Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Kimberley, Squamish, New Westminster, Cranbrook, and many others. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed two resolutions supporting this policy at their 2020 Convention.
“I first just want to say that I think it’s both an issue of equality, gender equality, and social health costs,” said Councillor David Frisch, who moved the motion, which passed unanimously.
“[...There] is a lack of GPs, [...] so whether rural or urban, that’s a big issue. So I see that concept [of being dispensed primarily through pharmacies] having a pretty positive effect all the way around,” said Mayor Bob Wells, speaking at the July 19th Council meeting, following a delegation presentation by 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. This 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.
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 to accessing contraception for many people in BC, and fall particularly on women and people who can get pregnant.
“Based on what I have experienced in my practice, both in pharmacy and in medicine, access to contraception is a basic human right,” says Dr. Ruth Habte, UBC Obstetrics & Gynaecology resident and AccessBC Campaign team member, in her presentation to Council on the 19th of July. “Unintended pregnancies can derail life plans, can come with very high personal costs, and cost the healthcare system money. [...] Being in a rural location makes it more difficult for [patients] to access contraception.”
“In a healthcare system where prescription contraception isn’t covered, but the sequelae, e.g people getting pregnant and continuing on with their pregnancy or having a miscarriage or having an ectopic pregnancy [are],” says Dr. Habte. “We are doing ourselves a disservice and not allowing women and people with uteruses to experience and reach their reproductive health goals.”
“No-cost contraception is just good public health policy. Research shows that cost is one of the main barriers preventing people from accessing contraception, and that doesn’t need to be the case,” said Karyn Fulcher, PhD, Research Fellow at the School of Public Health & Social Policy, at the University of Victoria and AccessBC Campaign team member. “Making contraception available at no cost would improve health outcomes, increase gender equity, and save the province money: a win-win situation all around.
“It’s great to see yet another BC municipality step up and call on the provincial government to fulfill its promise to make all prescription contraception free,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, AccessBC Campaign Chair and co-founder. “This policy is long overdue in BC.”
WHEREAS cost is a significant barrier to people accessing contraception, particularly to people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities;
WHEREAS providing no-cost 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;
WHEREAS contraceptive methods targeted at men (such as condoms or vasectomies) are available at low cost or are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan, whereas contraceptive methods for people with uteruses (such as birth control pills, intra-uterine devices, or hormone injections) have high up-front costs, making access to contraception unequal and gendered;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council directs the Mayor to write to the Provincial Government to urge them make all prescription contraception in BC available at no cost under the Medical Services Plan.
Video of the motion can be found at 1:45.22 in the video of the meeting.