Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights has published Canada’s first comparative analysis of provincial and territorial contraception policies. The Canadian Contraception Policy Atlas ranks provinces from best to worst in overall performance based on an evaluation of government policies in place to support access to contraceptive supplies and information. The ranking comes just months after BC became Canada's first jurisdiction to provide free contraception, reigniting a nation-wide movement for universal contraception coverage.
Findings of the research show that in Canada, despite having a universal health care system, a person’s access to contraception still very much depends on their postal code. The Atlas ranks British Columbia and Quebec as the best performing jurisdictions in Canada, while Newfoundland ranks last.
“No matter where you live, what job you have, or what’s in your bank account, you should have the ability to choose whether, when and with whom you have children. Free access to a wide variety of contraceptive options is critical in people's ability to make those choices” says Insiya Mankani, the coordinator of the Atlas research at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
The Atlas looks at 5 criteria and 15 sub criteria, evaluating cost coverage polices, prescriber scope, government provided information and public education available on contraception. The analysis found that while some provinces have comprehensive policies providing subsidized contraception universally, others cover only a limited range of methods, or only provide coverage for certain population groups, limiting equitable access.
Ontario had the only public health authority website that helped counteract “myths,” or misinformation about contraception, and four provinces provided contraception information only in English. These information gaps, compounded with the high cost of contraception, place significant barriers on people’s access. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights developed the Contraception Atlas in partnership with the Contraception and Abortion Research Team (CART-GRAC) of the University of British Columbia to highlight policy areas needing improvement for women and pregnancy-capable people of all genders to have full access to contraception.
Policies that support people to time and space their pregnancies provide additional benefits through enhanced education, income, contributions to the workforce and communities, and through a better start for their planned children in the home. Improving equitable contraception access for people across Canada will require policy reforms to enhance both contraception availability and information dissemination.
“Research shows that for every one dollar invested in contraception access, up to nine can be saved in the public sector” says Wendy V. Norman, Professor and Public Health Agency of Canada Chair, “Providing contraception coverage gives people prevention tools that lower overall healthcare system costs for unplanned pregnancies and STIs.”
We found that within every jurisdiction in Canada there are important areas for improvement to ensure that access to contraception is a guaranteed human right. Additionally, the federal government could make a huge equalizing impact by delivering a national policy of cost coverage for contraception as a step towards the implementation of pharmacare.