Press Release - October 13, 2020
Vernon Council Calls for Free Prescription Contraception
On October 13th, 2020, Vernon Council passed a motion calling on the Provincial Government to cover all prescription contraception at no cost under the BC Medical Services Plan.
“I’m so happy to see my hometown council supporting such an important issue,” said Marisa Levesque, a medical student at the UBC Southern Medical Program and member of the AccessBC Campaign for universal free prescription contraception. “Cost is just one barrier individuals face in accessing contraception, and these barriers fall disproportionately on women and people with uteruses. I’m grateful the Vernon council has recognized this equity issue and is showing their support to the provincial government for easier, safer access to contraception for everyone who needs it.”
Vernon is the tenth 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, and Alert Bay. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed two resolutions supporting this policy at their recent 2020 Convention.
“Ensuring we provide universal access to no-cost prescription contraception is one more way the City of Vernon can break down barriers,” said Councillor Kelly Fehr. “As a society we must always strive to provide equal access and equal health care regardless of one’s economic status, gender or identity.”
“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.
“Programs that offer universal no-cost prescription contraception not only make life more affordable for people, but they save governments money because the cost of offering prescription contraception at no cost is considerably lower than the costs associated with unintended pregnancy,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Chair and co-founder of the AccessBC Campaign. “I’m very pleased to see municipalities across BC adding their voice to the call for universal no-cost prescription contraception, as this policy needs to be part of any provincial recovery plan.
Full video of the meeting can be found here, with the content pertaining to the motion beginning at ~3:51 pm.
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 the City of Vernon write to the Provincial Minister of Finance, the Provincial Minister of Health, the Premier of BC, and the local MLA supporting universal no-cost access to all prescription contraception available in BC under the Medical Services Plan