Press Release - October 23, 2020
Sparwood Council Adds Support For Free Prescription Contraception
On October 20, 2020, after a presentation from the Sparwood Contraceptive Access Advocates (SCAA), District of Sparwood Council passed a motion to write a letter calling on the Provincial Government to cover all prescription contraception at no cost under the BC Medical Services Plan.
This was the second time that Sparwood Council considered the issue of access to prescription contraception. On October 6, 2020 Council received a letter from New Westminster, asking Sparwood to add their voice to a growing call for free prescription contraception across the province.
At this initial meeting, one councillor commented that contraception access would be like “giving young people permission,” and another councillor quipped “should we discuss where to file the letter,” after a motion to receive and file the letter was passed. The SCAA quickly formed in response to this incident and pressured Sparwood Council to revisit its decision. The SCAA also also pressed Council to add an inclusion clause to its Official Community Plan, to address the disconnect between the community and local government that was revealed through the initial vote and comments. This request was forwarded to District staff for review and recommendation.
“To truly thrive as a community, we need Council to actively see, include and connect with all people who make up the fabric of Sparwood,” said Joni Laberge, founding member of SCAA, and Sparwood resident. “We asked that an inclusion clause be added to Sparwood’s Official Community Plan to ensure that inclusion, cultural humility and connection serve as a fundamental basis for all future legislation, decisions and actions taken by the District of Sparwood.”
“While I am happy to see Council stand in support of free prescription contraception, I hope that they see and understand their initial error,” said Justine Bowen, founding member of SCAA and Sparwood resident. “Their flippant remarks and previous choice to not to support this simple policy alienated so many women and their allies.”
The motion moved at the October 20, 2020 meeting passed nearly unanimously, with only Councillor Jason Christiansen voting against.
Sparwood is the 11th BC municipality to individually endorse universal, no-cost coverage of prescription contraception in the province, following Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Kimberley, Squamish, New Westminster, Cranbrook, Fernie, Alert Bay, and Vernon. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed two resolutions supporting this policy at their recent 2020 Convention.
“At its core, this is an issue of equality,” said Devon Black, co-founder of AccessBC. “We know that people with uteruses pay unfairly high costs in dealing with unplanned pregnancy, but under our current system they also pay unfairly high costs to prevent pregnancy in the first place. This puts those of us who can become pregnant in an impossible lose-lose situation, in a way that we shouldn’t still accept in 2020.”
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.
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.
“I am pleased to see so many municipalities supporting universal access to no-cost prescription contraception,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Chair and co-founder of the AccessBC Campaign. “Programs that offer universal no-cost prescription contraception not only make life more affordable for people and increase equality, they save governments money. This policy needs to be part of any provincial recovery plan.”
Sparwood Contraceptive Access Advocates (SCAA) formed organically in response to their local government’s handling of a request from the mayor of New Westminster to give a letter of support for contraception access. The all-gender, leaderless group of 215 shared stories of lived experience to build community around contraceptive access, and will continue to hold local government accountable to Sparwood’s citizens and advocate for body sovereignty. Sparwood is a coal-mining community of 4,000 in south-east BC.