On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion calling on the Provincial Government to make all prescription contraception available at no cost under the BC Medical Services Plan.
“Unless prescription contraception is free, people who don’t have much money won’t have the same access to it as others, plain and simple. Contraception should be free just like other parts of our medical system,” says Councillor Jean Swanson.
“It’s wonderful to see Vancouver pass this motion and support this important issue,” said Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, committee chair and co-founder of the AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception in BC. “Providing universal coverage for no-cost prescription contraception is a policy based on solid evidence and would have a big impact on public health, affordability, and equality across the province.”
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 seen 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.
“People with uteruses are often paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket for contraception,” said Devon Black, co-founder of AccessBC. “Meanwhile, vasectomies are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan and condoms are handed out for free. That kind of structural inequality is just not acceptable in 2020.”
Currently, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, and hormone injections as much as $180 per year. These costs are a significant barrier in accessing contraception for many people in BC, and make it much harder for BC residents to freely make their own reproductive choices.
"This is a great step in moving towards improving quality of life for so many people. This is especially true for those who rely on prescription contraception as a form of treatment, for example, there are about 2 million Canadians who live with Endometriosis, a condition that affects the way the inner lining of a uterus is behaving in the body. For us with this condition, taking oral medication and having a hormonal IUD is vital to stay pain-free and functional." said Nazanin Moghadami, a registered clinical counsellor, Vancouver resident, and member of the AccessBC Campaign team who spoke in support of the motion.
“Equal access to contraception is a justice issue. Cost shouldn’t be a factor in making important personal decisions around contraception and reproduction. AccessBC’s campaign for no-cost prescription contraception is an important part expanding the reproductive right to choice,” says Vancouver Councillor Christine Boyle.
Here’s the Motion:
Universal No-Cost Coverage of Prescription Contraception
Submitted by: Councillor Swanson & Councillor Boyle
- Cost is a significant barrier to people accessing contraception, particularly to people with low incomes, youth, and people from marginalized communities;
- Providing free prescription contraception has been shown to improve health outcomes for parents and infants by reducing the risks associated with unintended pregnancy, and is likely to reduce direct medical costs on the provincial health system;
- Contraceptive methods targeted at men (such as condoms or vasectomies) are available at low cost or are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan, whereas contraceptive methods for people with uteruses (such as birth control pills, intra-uterine devices, or hormone injections) have high up-front costs, making access to contraception unequal and gendered;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council directs the Mayor to urge the Provincial Government to make all prescription contraception in BC available at no cost under the Medical Services Plan.
AccessBC is a province-wide campaign that advocates for universal no-cost prescription contraception in British Columbia. AccessBC is currently running a letter writing campaign to urge the BC Government to include this policy in the upcoming 2020 budget. Readers can learn more about AccessBC, and the benefits of making all prescription contraception universally available at no cost, at www.accessbc.org.