Press Release - April 25, 2022
Saanich Joins Call for Free Prescription Contraception
On Monday, April 25th, Saanich Council unanimously voted to send a letter of support to the provincial government, calling on it to make all prescription contraception free. Saanich is the 31st 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, and Cranbrook. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed two resolutions supporting this policy at their 2020 Convention.
Free prescription contraception was endorsed by all three major political parties in the last provincial election and was a key component of the BCNDP’s platform. It was also included in Minister of Health Adrian Dix’s mandate letter. Despite this support, the policy was not included in the most recent provincial budget. As a result, the AccessBC Campaign has been working hard to keep up the pressure. This grassroots campaign, which was founded in Saanich in 2017, has been reaching out to municipalities to secure their support for free prescription contraception, and is also running a province-wide public letter campaign.
Currently, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, hormone injections as much as $180 per year, and an implant can cost $350. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC, and fall disproportionately on women and people who can get pregnant.
Universal no-cost prescription contraception is revenue positive. A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that this policy could save the BC 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, and the Netherlands, which all subsidize prescription contraception in full or in part. This policy also increases equality and improves health outcomes for infants and mothers, given the increased risks associated with unplanned pregnancies, among other things.
“Offering no-cost prescription contraception is good social policy, good health policy, and good economic policy,” said Saanich Councillor Ned Taylor. “This is something that all three major political parties in BC have expressed support for, but progress is lacking. It’s clear that more pressure is needed for the provincial government to move forward with this, and I hope that Saanich Council’s advocacy can help build that additional pressure.”
“I support universal government-funded contraceptive healthcare for all residents of BC and Canada. It should be part of our medical services plan,” said Saanich Councillor Colin Plant. “Contraception is an important part of healthcare and the provincial government needs to follow through on their commitment to implement it. I am willing as a member of Saanich Council to lend my voice to those around the province advocating for this.”
“Cost remains a significant barrier preventing people from accessing prescription contraception here in Saanich and across BC,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Chair and Co-Founder of the AccessBC Campaign, and Saanich resident. “I’m pleased to see Saanich step up to support reproductive justice. This policy is long overdue in BC, and I hope that the BC NDP will work quickly to fulfil its election promise to make all prescription contraception in the province free.”
“The evidence is clear - unintended pregnancies are costly, both to our healthcare system and to patients directly,” said AccessBC Campaign Organizer and Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident Physician Ruth 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.”
“Universal no-cost prescription contraception improves the health and wellbeing of families, improves gender equity and is a financially responsible decision that will save all taxpayers much needed income,” said Lisa Jensen, teacher and AccessBC Campaign member. “I believe that free access to contraception for all is needed to prevent harm to vulnerable and marginalized people in our society.”