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

Map of positive COVID-19 cases for Jan. 3 to 9 by local health area. (BCCDC)
Agassiz-Harrison area sees 19 COVID-19 cases in seven days

The local health area has seen around one in every 500 people test positive from Jan. 3 to 9

One of the two barn owls currently taking up residence on Miel Bernstein’s Agassiz property. (Contributed)
Agassiz farm asks residents to help protect barn owls

Rat poison is one of the main killers of barn owls; avoiding it one of the easiest ways to save them

(Black Press file photo)
Highway 3 cleared, open after vehicle incident

The road was closed for about three hours earlier on Jan. 18

/ Kevin Mills Photo
Thousands participate in solidarity parade for transgender student who was bullied

Cars, horses and even planes passed by the Mission waterfront to show support

Kent Search and Rescue sent down three rescuers
UPDATE: Two people involved in ATV rollover 100 feet down ravine in Harrison, at least one injured

Incident happened shortly before 5 p.m. on Harrison East Forest Service Road

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

The RCMP was called to a condo complex in Langley City in the early hours of Jan. 18, 2021, for a shooting. (Shane Mackichan/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
27-year-old taken to hospital after overnight targeted shooting in Langley

RCMP have not confirmed the incident is link to the Lower Mainland gang conflict

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read