Media Advisory - December 8, 2022
AccessBC Campaign Statement for International Human Rights Day - December 10, 2022
December 10th is International Human Rights Day, and marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this day, 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 in both of Health Minister Dix’s mandate letters, yet despite this promise, the policy has yet to be implemented.
The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaffirms “dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” And Article 25 of the Declaration stipulates that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being… including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”
“Reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right. Being able to decide if and when one wants to become pregnant isn’t a decision that should be compromised just because someone can’t afford a prescription,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, AccessBC Campaign co-founder, campaign chair, and academic researcher living in Saanich. “We must press forward with efforts to increase access to contraception alongside efforts to address other barriers people face when trying to access sexual and reproductive health services.”
Currently, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, 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 barrier to accessing contraception created by cost has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Existing barriers to accessing contraception in our healthcare system, like cost, being a young person, or living in rural, Northern, or Indigenous communities, are being magnified by the pandemic,” says Dr. Ruth Habte, a Resident Physician in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Campaign Organizer. “The impact of cost, however, cannot be overstated. The pandemic has caused sweeping layoffs or cuts to hours and, as a result, has squeezed personal budgets tighter than before. This, coupled with the already patchwork of coverage in our healthcare system, means that people will continue to fall through the cracks.”
“The cost of contraception often falls on the women, therefore being able to have free low barrier contraception is not only a human right but a step towards achieving gender equality,” says Sara Eftekhar, Nurse Practitioner and AccessBC Campaign team member. “As a Nurse Practitioner, when patients want oral contraceptives for their debilitating menstrual cramps, or symptoms of Premenstrual dysphoric disorder but are not able to afford them, or when youth in rural communities having to hitchhike to obtain contraception, that is a violation of a right to access medical care. Many of my patients tell a deeper story of our broken systems that are interconnected with human rights violations.”
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.
“Family planning and access to contraceptive care is a critical aspect of healthcare and social equity. Eliminating the cost barrier will be a huge step forward for all people with uteruses in BC and will have positive economic and social impacts,” says Graham Landells, UBC Medical Student and AccessBC Campaign team member from Kelowna. “There is not a doubt in my mind that eliminating the cost of prescription contraceptives is the way to go.”
“Barriers to prescription contraception disproportionately impact 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.”
Reflecting on current evidence and on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, 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;
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 AccessBC Campaign Chair Teale 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.”