No-cost birth control is off the table for B.C. in 2021 and the advocacy group AccessBC is disappointed as organizers say it would have had significant positive impacts amid the pandemic.
When universal contraception coverage was left out of the 2020 budget, Devon Black, co-founder of AccessBC, called the exclusion a missed opportunity but said the team was hopeful about the province funding no-cost prescription birth control in 2021.
It was a significant component of the NDP campaign during the snap election in October, Black said, adding that it’s been on the party’s policy books for nearly five years.
On April 20, after the budget was released without the inclusion of universal birth control, Minister Selena Robinson said it’s something the party has committed to over its four-year term.
AccessBC has been pushing for B.C. to make all forms of contraception universally accessible since 2017. Two years ago, on World Contraception Day, the group began a letter-writing campaign. The bid was endorsed by various groups including the City of Victoria, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.
The team cited a 2010 study by Options for Sexual Health, which estimated that providing B.C. residents with free birth control would cost about $52 million, but would save up to $95 million annually as costs for supporting unplanned pregnancies would go down.
Black said the pandemic should have been the extra push needed as the “gendered impacts are well-documented” – from the financial strain experienced by those who left the workforce to care for their families or who lost their jobs in professions where close contact was required, to the increase in intimate partner violence with more time at home.
“Access to contraception isn’t a silver bullet, but it is one way to help combat the gender inequalities that this pandemic has aggravated,” she said.
This was on the NDP’s radar and funding no-cost contraception was an opportunity to recognize the impactand act on it, Black said.
“It’s difficult to justify waiting another year.”
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