Today people from around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The AccessBC campaign for free prescription contraception is standing with the IWD 2021 campaign to challenge gender bias and inequality – especially through advocacy – for the right to accessible contraception.
“It’s long past time for contraception to be free for everyone,” said AccessBC co-founder Devon Black, in a news release. “We know that the costs of contraception fall disproportionately on people who can become pregnant – and so do the costs when contraception is inaccessible. The evidence could not be clearer that contraception access increases gender equality and improves health outcomes.”
AccessBC has been campaigning for the B.C. government to make all forms of prescription contraception universally accessible at no cost. The campaign to date has been endorsed by 19 municipalities and districts across the province, as well as the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).
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 in accessing contraception for many people in B.C., and make it much harder for B.C. residents to freely make their own reproductive choices, says Black.
“The pandemic has caused sweeping layoffs and cuts to hours, and as a result has squeezed personal budgets tighter than before,” said Dr. Ruth Habte, AccessBC committee member and UBC Obstetrics and Gynaecology resident physician. “While multiple factors prevent people from accessing contraception, the impact of cost cannot be overstated. Including access to universal no-cost contraception in the budget would be a step in the right direction, and would help the most vulnerable in our society in accessing these vital medicines.”
“Barriers to prescription contraception disproportionately impact members of our communities who are made vulnerable by structural inequities, including folks living in poverty, those who are unhoused, women, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, migrants, and newcomers,” said Emily Wiesenthal, AccessBC committee member, medical student, and Kelowna resident. “While there are many things that make accessing contraception difficult, removing the financial limitations is a critical first step.”
On International Women’s Day, AccessBC calls on the Government of British Columbia to include universal no cost prescription contraception in the 2021 budget and to ensure that as many forms of contraception as possible are covered.
And it wants government to ensure that all community clinics, hospitals, and health care sites are supported to carry a full complement of contraception to ensure that choice is available based on the needs and personal preferences of the individual seeking the contraception.
“Reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right,” said Black. “Being able to decide when and if to become pregnant isn’t a decision that should be compromised just because someone can’t afford a prescription. On this International Women’s Day, we #ChooseToChallenge this inequality in our healthcare system, and to fight for a healthcare system that protects everyone in B.C. equally.”