A Vernon city councillor is urging the province to cover prescription contraceptives under the Medical Service Plan. (Ceridwen - Wikimedia Commons)

A Vernon city councillor is urging the province to cover prescription contraceptives under the Medical Service Plan. (Ceridwen - Wikimedia Commons)

Vernon councillor pushes for free birth control

Coun. Kelly Fehr wants to see prescription contraceptives covered by province’s medical service plan

Birth control is expensive and it’s a cost barrier for those with low incomes, youth and marginalized communities but a City of Vernon councillor is looking to make it more accessible to all.

Vernon Coun. Kelly Fehr’s motion to send a letter to the province, health minister and local MLA supporting access to contraceptives at no cost was passed by council during the Oct. 13 meeting.

“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,” Fehr’s motion reads.

Fehr’s motion underscores the inequality between contraceptive methods available to men and women and the costs associated with each.

“Contraceptive methods such as condoms or vasectomies are available at low cost, no cost, or are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan,” it reads. “Contraceptive methods for people with uteruses, such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices or hormone injections, have high up-front costs.”

An intrauterine device (IUD), which has a 99 per cent efficacy rate, can cost between $80-300 in British Columbia, while condoms are offered free of charge at several clinics.

The letter will be addressed to B.C.’s finance and health ministers, the premier and local MLA seeking support for universal access to all contraception under MSP.

A copy of the letter will be forwarded to all municipalities in the province asking for letters of support.

Council voted 6-1 in favour of Fehr’s motion, with only Coun. Scott Anderson in opposition.

“I have no problem in principle with the idea but do have a problem with the hierarchy of needs,” Anderson said.

Anderson said a significant portion of the population lives with diabetes and necessary medicine is expensive.

“I would really hesitate to vote for something when we’re leaving all those other people in a bind,” he said Tuesday. “I’d like it all to be free if we could afford to do that. I just don’t see this near the top of existential needs.”

READ MORE: Low-income young women less likely to use reliable birth control, B.C. study finds

READ MORE: Diphtheria outbreak affected Summerland in 1911


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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