On Tuesday, the Village of Valemount council passed two motions that will help increase equality in the village. The first motion allocates $1,555 in the 2021 budget to provide free menstrual products and condoms in the village’s public facilities. In the second motion, the council agreed to send a letter to Victoria calling for universal prescription contraceptive coverage through the BC Medical Services Plan, at no charge to the public.
Valemount is the 14th municipality to individually endorse universal, no-cost coverage of prescription contraception in the province, following Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Kimberley, Squamish, New Westminster, Cranbrook, Fernie, Alert Bay, Vernon, Sparwood, Pemberton, and Rossland. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed two resolutions supporting this policy at their recent 2020 Convention.
A 2010 study from Options for Sexual Health estimated that providing universal, no-cost contraception coverage in B.C. could save the provincial government as much as $95 million per year. That pattern of savings has been seen in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Italy and Germany, which all subsidize prescription contraception in full or in part.
Currently, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cost $75 to $380, oral contraceptive pills can cost $20 per month, and hormone injections as much as $180 per year. These costs are a significant barrier to accessing contraception for many people in BC, and fall particularly on women and people who can get pregnant.
“Universal no-cost prescription contraception is one of those wonderful win-win-win situations,” said Lisa Jensen, Squamish resident, teacher and AccessBC Campaign member, in a news release. “Free contraception improves the health and wellbeing of families, improves gender equity and is a financially responsible decision that will save taxpayers and the government.”
It is estimated that the average person with a uterus spends as much as $6,000 dollars on menstrual products in their lifetime, and that people in rural and remote communities can spend up to twice as much on menstrual products than people in urban centres. The federal government recently removed tax on menstrual products, but high costs still make it difficult for some, particularly those with low incomes, to access these necessities.
Not having access to affordable menstrual products prevents women and people who menstruate from fully participating in activities, leading to missed school and work. Studies have found that one in seven Canadian girls has either left school early or missed school entirely because of a lack of access to menstrual products.
“Good health is one of the most important things for people to succeed in their chosen careers. Empowering young women with the choice and ability to access and afford reproductive services is fundamental to their health and autonomy,” said Dr. Katelyn Mudry, ND, MSc,Cranbrook Naturopathic Physician and AccessBC team member. “In my experience, empowered girls and young women can do literally anything and that makes me so excited to see municipalities stepping up like Valemount.”
“The Village of Valemount really stepped up,” said Devon Black, Victoria-based lawyer and co-founder of the AccessBC Campaign. “I hope more municipalities will follow suit and fight period poverty by providing free menstrual products in their facilities.”