B.C. advocates for free birth control are feeling optimistic that the provincial government will agree to make universally accessible contraception a reality.
AccessBC – a province-wide campaign based in Saanich – has called on the B.C. government to fund free birth control prescriptions through the 2020 provincial budget, set to be announced in February.
The group has been running a letter-writing campaign since the fall of 2019. Those in favour of free birth control prescriptions were asked to write to their MLAs and the premier asking for the 2020 budget to include funding for universally accessible contraception.
Devon Black, an AccessBC co-founder, has seen the momentum build in the past few months as more allies show their support and write letters.
“We now have dozens of allies signed on in support, including the Victoria and Vancouver Labour Councils, the Camosun and Victoria student societies, the BC Society of Transition Houses, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada,” Black said. “This is a policy that B.C. voters want.”
According to Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair and co-founder of AccessBC, the momentum is coming at just the right time as the B.C. government is finalizing the 2020 budget.
At an unrelated press conference in December, Premier John Horgan said the B.C. NDP government is open to looking at offering publicly-funded contraception as a means to make life more affordable for residents.
Phelps Bondaroff emphasized that access to free birth control empowers people, promotes equality and better health outcomes and saves the government money.
A 2010 study by Options For Sexual Health found that for every $1 spent on contraception, up to $90 can be saved in public expenditure on social support. The study also estimated that $95 million could be saved annually if the B.C. government made prescription contraceptives free because the cost of birth control is significantly less than the costs of an unintended pregnancy.
Cost is one of the biggest barriers to accessing contraceptives, Phelps Bondaroff explained. For example, an intrauterine device can cost between $75 and $380. As a result, many people choose less costly or less reliable options which can result in adverse health effects or an unintended pregnancy, he noted.
“Removing cost as a barrier to accessing contraception promotes equality,” Black said. “The costs of prescription contraception fall disproportionately on women and people with uteruses.”
Black emphasized that the letter-writing campaign is still in effect and that “public pressure” is the way to indicate that B.C. voters want universal contraception funded in the 2020 budget. Letters can be sent through the AccessBC website.