BC students are calling on province to fulfill promise on birth control

The BC NDP has yet to deliver on its promise of free birth control, which could save the public money in the long run, supporters say.

Citing the recent overthrow of Roe v. Wade, in the United States, a major BC student organization joins a public campaign to hold BC’s New Democrats accountable for their campaign pledge to make contraception free for BC residents.

The BC Federation of Students says it has backed the AccessBC campaign and urged the provincial government to fulfill its 2020 campaign promise to have all prescription contraceptives fully taxpayer-subsidized.

The issue is made even more pressing by the erosion of abortion rights in the United States, which stemmed from the US Supreme Court’s decision last month dropping the historic Roe vs. Wade case, which established the constitutional right to abortion .

“Following the devastating news of the settlement of the Roe v. Wade in the US, many BC politicians reiterated their commitment to supporting abortion rights, but more needs to be done,” said Melissa Chirino, chair of the BC Federation of Students, in a July 21 statement.

“People in BC continue to encounter obstacles when trying to access something as basic as contraception, and everyone should have access to free contraception without obstacles.”

According to the association, an intrauterine device (IUD) can currently cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptives $20 a month, hormone injections up to $180 a year, and an implant $350.

“These costs represent a significant barrier to access contraception for many people in BC and disproportionately bear on women and those who are capable of becoming pregnant. Cost is a particularly big barrier for young people and people from marginalized communities,” the association said.

“Students are already struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living combined with the cost of attending post-secondary education,” said Tashia Kootenayoo, the federation’s secretary and treasurer.

“Access to free birth control allows students who are struggling to make a less difficult choice: eat or birth control,” Kootenayoo added.

The federation, which represents students at 15 small- and medium-sized BC universities, claims that universal, free, prescription contraceptives increase sales, citing a 2010 Options for Sexual Health study. It is estimated that for every US $1 spent supporting one woman’s contraception can save up to $90 in public spending on social assistance.

AccessBC says when the state of Colorado implemented a program that offered women free IUDs (43,713 at a cost of $28 million), the program reduced teen pregnancies by 54% and teen abortion rates by 64% in the over eight years and saved the government an estimated $70 million.

The Canadian Medical Association, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society also support such a plan.

“Free prescription contraception is an amazing policy; it will improve maternal and infant health, make life more affordable, increase equality and will save government millions, and this policy is long overdue,” Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair and co-founder of the AccessBC campaign, said in the association’s statement .

In 2020, the BC NDP stated: “Cost should not deter individuals, particularly young people, from their right to make decisions about their reproductive health. While condoms can be found easily or for free, and vasectomies are covered by MSP, prescription contraceptives are not. It is time to make contraception free for everyone.”

Glacier Media has reached out to Health Minister Adrian Dix for comment on the government’s progress on the matter.

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