By Laura Keil
I’ve been following AccessBC’s campaign to get free prescription contraception in the B.C. budget for years now, and was delighted to see it included in the latest budget. Starting April 1st, BC will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to make prescription contraception free to all residents.
This is a program that’s expected to pay for itself, by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and the cost, both financial and mental, that comes with that.
In Canada, unintended pregnancies cost Canadian health systems over $61 million annually. Studies have shown that providing universal contraception coverage could see that entire amount saved in as little as six to twelve months. But it goes beyond the savings.
“Access to contraception is an issue of equity – barriers to access, such as cost, fall disproportionately on people with uteruses, and more significantly affect those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” said Marisa Levesque, a UBC medical student and AccessBC Campaign member. “Allowing all people to make choices about if and when they have children promotes gender equity in areas such as educational attainment and lifetime earnings.”
We know from the research that women’s health and education directly impacts their children. Ensuring women can choose if and when to reproduce promotes not just healthy, thriving women, but healthy, thriving children if and when they do have children.
Forcing women to cover the cost of contraception out of their own pockets has essentially been a tax on women – one that costs up to $400 a year.
Reproductive freedom is on a continuum of course. We have only to look at other countries around the world to see how little freedom exists for those who are not allowed contraception and are forced to marry at a young age.
Reproductive rights are human rights, and contraception has played a big role in the gains we’ve seen in women’s rights and freedoms in Canada over the past century. Covering prescription contraception is the next step. Put simply, as family doctor Sarah Malleson did, “I support free prescription contraception because the power to choose should not depend on your income.”