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

Just Posted

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read