Press Release - February 28, 2023
AccessBC Campaign Celebrates Government’s Commitment to Free Prescription Contraception
AccessBC is delighted to see that the 2023 BC provincial budget, released today, includes a commitment from the government to make all prescription contraception free.
Starting April 1, 2023, BC will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to make prescription contraception free to all residents. The 2023 budget dedicates $119 million over three years for a program that will fully cover prescription contraception options, including most oral pills, injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, and Plan B (also known as the morning after pill).
“Today’s budget announcement is a victory for gender equality and reproductive justice in BC, especially for patients struggling to access the contraceptive of their choice,” said AccessBC Campaign Organizer and Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident Physician Ruth Habte. “We’re elated that BC has made history today and it was included as part of the 2023 provincial budget.”
An IUD can cost up to $500, oral contraceptive pills cost at least $240 per year, and hormone injections as much as $180 per year. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC.
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in BC 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 subsidise prescription contraception in full or in part.
“There is no ambiguity surrounding the cost-savings of universal no-cost contraceptive policies,” said Dr. Habte. “Including universal no-cost contraception in the budget is supported by evidence and is the right move for patient care.”
AccessBC has been advocating for universal, no-cost coverage for prescription contraception in BC since 2017. A true grassroots initiative that started as a frustrated conversation between friends at a kitchen table, AccessBC’s campaign has grown to include over 75 volunteers from across BC. The campaign’s call for universal no-cost prescription contraception has been endorsed by 36 BC municipalities and districts across BC, the Union of BC Municipalities, and a wide range of unions and civil society organisations. Over the past several years, AccessBC has mobilised supporters from across the province to send tens of thousands of letters to MLAs and ministers, urging them to implement this important policy.
“I am incredibly proud of our amazing team of AccessBC volunteers and grateful to them for all of the hard work they put into this campaign,” said AccessBC Campaign Chair and Co-Founder Teale Phelps Bondaroff. “Our campaign started as a handful of people who wanted to resolve an obvious injustice, and after six years, we succeeded in convincing the government to make prescription contraception freely available to everyone in BC. It’s inspiring to see people from all across the province come together to fight for equality and reproductive justice. This demonstrated the power of grassroots organising.”
“Free prescription contraception is a fantastic policy that will improve health outcomes for infants and mothers, make life more affordable, increase equality, and save the provincial government millions,” says Phelps Bondaroff. “This is a huge win for equality and it comes at a very important time. As we see the roll back of reproductive freedom south of the border and around the world, BC’s leadership will make the province a beacon of hope for reproductive justice, and hopefully lead to the adoption of this policy more widely.”
In her budget speech, Minister of Finance, Katrine Conroy, said the following:
“When it comes to essentials, having full control over your reproductive rights is at the top of the list. All too often, these fundamental rights are under attack. Not here in BC. Starting April 1, prescription birth control is going to be free in British Columbia.”
“We know costs vary – but it really adds up. For someone who pays $25 a month for birth control pills, that’s $300 in savings every year. And as much as $10,000 in savings over their lifetime. Mr. Speaker, as the mother of two daughters and five granddaughters, I know the effect this is going to have on people’s lives in our province.”
“This is a win for health and it’s a win for gender equity in our province. It’s about time. The days of passing down these costs to women and trans and non-binary people are coming to an end.”