Press Release - September 3, 2020
AccessBC gains municipal endorsement from District of Squamish Council in campaign to fund universal access to no-cost prescription contraception in B.C.
Squamish, B.C. - On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, AccessBC members appeared before District of Squamish Council seeking municipal support for a motion calling on the Provincial Government to cover all prescription contraception at no cost under the BC Medical Services Plan. Squamish Council passed the motion unanimously.
“I am elated to see Squamish Council pass this motion,” said Lisa Jensen, a local teacher and member of the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception. “The support I received from Council members before, during and after my presentation at the Council meeting reflects the best values of our Squamish community, and I am proud that the Squamish municipality has not only endorsed AccessBC’s policy, but also encouraged and passed a second motion to discuss increasing access to menstrual products in the 2021 budget. Squamish Council demonstrated genuine commitment to the kind of policy innovations that will be needed to improve gender equity and health outcomes in the face of COVID-19.”
Squamish is the fifth B.C. municipality to endorse universal, no cost coverage of prescription contraception in the province, following Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, and most recently, Kimberley.
“This is an issue that strikes at the heart of equity and inclusion, and is consistent with work that we have done during our term to embed such principles into our policies and actions,” says District of Squamish Acting Mayor Chris Pettingill. “Squamish Council is encouraged to see the Province speaking to equity as a key principle in its allocation of recovery funding, and we join other municipal voices to urge them to support this important issue that women unequally bear.
A second motion to consider wider availability of menstrual products in public washrooms as part of the budget for 2021 also passed unanimously.
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in BC would likely cost approximately $50 million, but would save 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, 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 B.C., and make it much harder for B.C. residents to freely make their own reproductive choices.
“The great thing about programs that offer free prescription contraception is that not only do they make life more affordable, but they 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. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founder and committee chair of AccessBC. “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.”
1. Cost is a significant barrier to people accessing contraception, particularly to people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities;
2. 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;
3. 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 urge the Provincial Government to make all prescription contraception in BC available at no cost under the Medical Services Plan.
Video of proceedings (September 1, 2020, first clip, starts at ~4:10):