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

The Lavington Community Association shared this image of the final support beam installed at Jeffers Park in 2020. (Lavington Community Association - Instagram)
COVID-19 halts plans to open Lavington ice rink

Skaters won’t be able to enjoy the newly erected roof at Jeffers Park this season

Deb White, carnival chairwoman, rode in on style Saturday during the parade. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Pandemic postpones parade, heart of Vernon Winter Carnival

Interior Health says no to one of B.C.’s only winter parades

An elementary school student misplaced their glucose monitoring device for diabetes and his family and teachers are hoping someone maybe picked it up. (Dexcom)
UPDATE: Vernon student’s missing medical device found

Receiver used to monitor diabetes believed left in snowbank at school

The revitalization of Polson Park is one of the many projects that come to council’s mind that could benefit from the Fortis BC Legacy Fund. (Debbie Gibson photo)
Vernon council considers use of $13M ‘legacy’

Fortis BC Legacy Fund to be discussed further in special meeting of council

Lindsay Palmateer, a Salmon Arm mother of six, succumbed to her injuries after a serious crash Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, south of Enderby. (Contributed)
‘She was everyone’s caretaker’: Salmon Arm mother of six remembered

GoFundMe campaign exceeds goal already for family involved in deadly crash near Enderby

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary South Okanagan long-term care facility administrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media/FILE)
Vehicle found abandoned after fleeing Kelowna RCMP, avoiding spike belt

Police believed at the time vehicle was tied to alleged shooting in West Kelowna

West Kelowna RCMP are investigating reports of gunfire in the 1700-block of Ross Road. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating reports of gunfire

West Kelowna RCMP said the incident occurred on Jan. 14

Penticton’s 7-Eleven is closed due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, the company announced Jan. 15, 2021. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton 7-Eleven closed after employee tests positive for COVID-19

The store will re-open “on or before” Jan. 23

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government announces creation of B.C.’s first anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

With a second case of COVID-19 confirmed at South Canoe Elementary, parents were advised Thursday, Jan. 14, that the school could be closed for a week or so. (Contributed)
Closure considered after four cases of COVID-19 identified at Salmon Arm school

South Canoe Elementary principal grateful for concern and support shown by public

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is on track, despite COVID-19 and the recent provincial election. (Government of BC photo)
1 month closure planned for Highway 1 near Golden

This closure is expected from April 12 until May 14. Others are planned in the future.

Most Read