The B.C. NDP have pledged to make contraception options such as birth control pills, IUDs, the patch, and the Nuva ring free for all. (AccessBC)

The B.C. NDP have pledged to make contraception options such as birth control pills, IUDs, the patch, and the Nuva ring free for all. (AccessBC)

B.C. NDP’s pledge of free birth control followed by Liberals, Greens

AccessBC says burden of paying for contraception should be carried by society, not just women

A promise of free contraception made by the B.C. NDP has led to praise from an advocacy group.

The campaign promise, announced by NDP Leader John Horgan last week, is expected to cost $60 million each year.

Devon Black and Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founders of AccessBC, said that they’ve been advocating for free birth control in B.C. for four years.

“We were really excited,” Phelps Bondaroff said. The group, although non-partisan, helped pass the policy at an NDP convention in 2017, the first step to getting it to an election platform.

“It’s long overdue. Every single party should have it in their platform.”

In the days following Black Press Media’s interview with AccessBC, the B.C. Greens pledged free contraception for people under the age of 25, as well as to eliminate PST on all prescription contraceptive products. Intrauterine contraceptives and oral ones are already provincial sales tax exempt.

Following comments by BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness comparing free birth control to eugenics, Leader Andrew Wilkinson tweeted that “Let’s be clear, I support government providing free contraception to anyone in B.C who wants it.” He also said he would discuss the issue with Throness, saying what the candidate “said was wrong and against my position as leader of this party.” However, Wilkinson did not announce any official promise to provide free contraception in B.C.

Phelps Bondaroff said that while free contraception from the province comes with a price tag, a 2010 report from Options for Sexual Health – a organization that offers low-cost, or free, access to sexual health and gynaecological services – found that for every dollar spent on contraception, the government saves $90 on social support programs. In total, the report estimates that the government could save approximately $95 million per year with a free birth control policy.

“This is because the cost of providing free prescription contraception to women, trans men and non-binary people who have uteruses is considerably lower than the costs associated with unintended pregnancy,” Phelps Bondaroff said.

“If you can’t afford contraception, you probably can’t afford to raise a child [without help].”

While both Black and Phelps Bondaroff acknowledge that cost is not the only barrier for many, they said it’s an important step to take. B.C. has provided free access to the abortion pill Mifegymiso since early 2018. Surgical abortion, as well as vasectomies and the more invasive tubal ligation for women, are all covered by provincial health care.

READ MORE: No-cost medical abortions ‘a game changer’ in B.C. women’s health care

Black said while the issue has been pressing for a long time, the pandemic has made free, equal access to contraception more urgent.

“There’s a lot of people who lost access to their health-care insurance that they otherwise would have gotten through their work,” she said.

“Unfortunately, ‘pink collar’ industries were among the ones hit hardest by COVID.”

“Pink collar” industries such as the service industry, which traditionally employ more women than men, have seen the worst of the job losses associated with the pandemic.

But even for those who’ve always paid for their birth control out of pocket, money is often tighter than usual these days. This especially applies, Black said, to women who prefer, or need to use, forms of contraception that are more expensive upfront.

“Long acting reversible forms of contraception are more effective than the pill,” Black said, but noted that they are much more expensive upfront, even if they are cheaper over time. Contraceptive pills cost around $20 a month, but can add up to $720 over three years, compared to a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) that could cost around $380 but be good for between three and five years. Copper IUDs, which are popular with women who cannot tolerate hormones, can last for up to 10 years at a much lower cost than equivalent birth control pills.

Phelps Bondaroff said that long acting forms of birth control are also crucial to women dealing with domestic abuse or reproductive coercion, the latter of which means an abuser taking away their partner’s power to make choices about their reproductive health.

Black said that if government pays for contraception, it makes it a public health issue, not an individual issue placed on women, trans men and non-binary people who have uteruses.

“Even if you’re not the person paying for contraception, you’re often benefitting from it,” she said.

“This is a way of making sure that the costs for contraception aren’t unfairly allocated just to people who are able to get pregnant.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s virtual COVID-19 election campaign lacks human touch

READ MORE: B.C. parties battle over tax promises to recover from COVID-19


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC NDPBC politicsBC Votes 2020Healthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

No unused COVID-19 vaccines are going to waste at the end of… Continue reading

Where urban and natural landscapes meet can be a very interesting place. The Museum at Campbell River and Greenways Land Trust are hosting a talk on Earth Day on that topic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Where urban and natural meet

Earth Day talk looks at urban biodiversity

Ryan Rasmussen goes on a training run on Quadra Island. Photo supplied.
Quadra Island man to run 160 km to raise funds for alternative cancer care

‘I feel like I need to be in pain to raise the money… I can’t do something that’s easy’ — Ryan Rasmussen

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read