Press Release - February 13, 2023
AccessBC Campaign Statement for Sexual and Reproductive Health Week
February 13th marks the beginning of Sexual and Reproductive Health Week, which runs until February 17th. This week, the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception is calling on the BC government to stand up for human rights and follow through on its promise to make all prescription contraception in the province free.
During their 2020 provincial election platform, the BC NDP promised to make all prescription contraception free, and the policy has been included in both of Health Minister Dix’s mandate letters, however BC residents are still waiting for universal contraception coverage.
“The theme of Sexual and Reproductive Health Week 2023 is ‘Get the facts,’ and one fact is that the cost remains a significant barrier to people accessing prescription contraception in BC, and costs fall disproportionately on women and people who can get pregnant,” says Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Chair and Co-founder of the AccessBC Campaign and academic researcher living in Saanich. “Free prescription contraception not only makes life more affordable, increases equality, and will save the government millions, but it also improves health outcomes for mothers and infants.”
Currently, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $500, oral contraceptive pills can cost $240 per year, 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 across Canada, and fall particularly on women and people who can get pregnant. The barriers to accessing contraception have been exacerbated by the pandemic and by rapidly rising costs of living.
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 borne out 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.
“Barriers to prescription contraception disproportionately impact the sexual and reproductive health of members of our communities who are made vulnerable by structural inequities, including folks living in poverty, those who are unhoused, women, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, migrants, and newcomers,” says Emily Wiesenthal, AccessBC committee member, medical student, and Kelowna resident. “While there are many things that make accessing contraception difficult, removing the financial limitations is a critical first step.”
“People accessing prescription contraception face inordinate and sometimes insurmountable costs, and these costs compound,” says Sophie Choong, a high school student and AccessBC Campaign Marketing Director. “Not only do you have the direct cost of the contraception itself, but there is time taken off work or school to visit a clinic, travel and other associated costs, and on top of this we continue to see misinformation, stigma, and taboos around contraception and sexual and reproductive health in general.”
In light of Sexual and Reproductive Health Week and the forthcoming provincial budget, the AccessBC Campaign redoubles its call for free contraception in BC, and calls on the BC Government to:
Provide universal no-cost prescription contraception;
Ensure this programs includes all prescription contraceptive methods, including hormonal IUDs, non-hormonal IUDs, and the contraceptive implant;
Commit to including future prescription contraception methods under this policy, including contraception methods for men and other people who cannot become pregnant;
Create a plan to implement the policy equitably, taking into account factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and location;
Work to remove other barriers that people face when trying to access sexual and reproductive healthcare and services.
“Access to contraception is a human right, and free prescription contraception was a major election promise made by the BC NDP, says Phelps Bondaroff. “Free prescription contraception is a fantastic policy that will make life more affordable, improve health outcomes for infants and mothers, increase equality, and save the government millions, and the BC NDP Government must follow through on its commitment to this policy and include it in the 2023 provincial budget.”