Access to contraception is a human right. Universal coverage for contraception empowers people, improves health outcomes, and leads to significant cost savings.
Today, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and the AccessBC Campaign are calling on the federal government to announce universal no-cost prescription contraception in its budget 2021.
“Being able to control your fertility shouldn't be reserved for people who can afford it. It is high-time for Canada to step up and provide cost coverage for contraception,” says Kara Gillies, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
“We need to listen and believe youth when they tell us what they need, and support them in making the choices that are best for them. It is important we trust young people as agents and decision-makers, and as experts in their own lived experiences and bodies,” said Emily Wiesenthal, a BC medical student and member of the AccessBC campaign. “Access to free prescription contraception holds significant benefits for youth, who face additional barriers in terms of cost and confidentiality.”
In Canada, unintended pregnancies cost Canadian health systems millions of dollars each year. Studies have shown that providing universal contraception coverage could see that entire amount saved in as little as six to twelve months.
For example, a Colorado program offering free IUDs to young people, at a cost of $28 million, saw a 54% reduction in teen pregnancies and 64% in teen abortion rates over eight years, saving the government an estimated $70 million. A separate 2015 study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated that the cost of delivering universal contraception across Canada would be $157 million, but the savings for direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy alone, would be approximately $320 million.
When people who can get pregnant--especially young people--are empowered to choose if, when, and how many children to have, they are better positioned to continue their education and access employment opportunities, which has positive impacts on income, mental health, family stability and children’s well-being.
Other campaigns are moving across the country advocating for universal access to no-cost prescription contraception in their own provinces, such as Ontario’s CoverContraceptiON, and Manitoba’s Birth Control Access for Manitoba. The CoverContraception group is led by Ontario health care providers, asking the Ford government to implement its own free contraception policy for Ontarians.
Universal coverage of contraception in Canada through a federal plan is an effective method to increase healthcare equity and access, and to ease the burden of healthcare spending, especially during the COVID-19 era when many people are financially stressed and contraceptive access has been compromised. Action Canada and AccessBC call upon the Canadian federal government to:
- Provide universal cost coverage of all forms of contraception, for all people in Canada;
- Sponsor public education campaigns to endorse and circulate the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada guidelines and information about contraceptive methods and use;
- Launch a National Sexual Health Survey, with a robust set of sexual health indicators, including contraceptive prevalence rates;
- Engage relevant professional bodies to implement task shifting models across all jurisdictions to improve access to contraceptive counselling, prescriptions, and IUD and implant insertion; and
- Implement a National Pharmacare Strategy that is universal, single-payer, portable, accessible and comprehensive.
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An Options for Sexual Health study from 2010 estimated that the BC government could save as much as $95 million annually, nearly twice the projected cost of implementing this policy.
For background research on the issue, see:
AccessBC Briefing Paper - https://www.accessbc.org/briefing-paper
About Action Canada
Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights is a progressive, human rights based charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.
AccessBC is a province-wide campaign that advocates for universal no-cost prescription contraception in British Columbia. AccessBC is currently running a letter writing campaign to urge the BC Government to include this policy in the upcoming 2020 budget. You can learn more about AccessBC, the need for, and benefits of, making all prescription contraception universally available at no cost, at www.accessbc.org.
About Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week
Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week (SRH Week) is a yearly campaign to raise awareness on sexual and reproductive health while promoting resources to improve community health in Canada. This year’s SRH Week is from February 8-14, highlighting the theme of “Youth-Friendly Care: It’s Your Right.”
Youth-friendly sexual health care focuses on youth experiences and their right to access sexual and reproductive health with an informed, non-judgemental, and sex positive approach. This also means acknowledging sexual health as integral to the overall health of youth, and the ways in which age, gender, race, or sexual orientation can impact access to health care. The care young people receive must be adapted to their diverse needs and desires. Youth are the experts when it comes to their own health.
Free to use contraception photos, credit AccessBC: https://www.accessbc.org/contraception-stock-photos