The cost for contraception is the most commonly cited barrier by women and people in accessing timely and effective contraception to avoid unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.
Thanks to the leadership and committments from government, BC Women's leaders and researchers and other partner advocates to upholding access to sexual and reproductive care and services for all, this barrier will no longer be a concern for residents in BC.
Starting April 1, contraceptives, including oral contraceptives (the pill), copper and hormonal IUDs, a subdermal implant, a contraceptive injection and emergency oral contraceptives (morning-after pill) will be free for residents, the BC Government announced in February.
Staff and researchers at BC Women's Hospital and University of British Columbia (UBC) have been working toward this since 2011, including conducting a door-to-door survey and regularly hosting stakeholder engagement, to gather data to support evidence-informed policy development.
“We're proud of the work we did to make this happen," says BC Women's Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Davies. “This policy advances reproductive justice by supporting equitable access to these healthcare services for all."
Unintended pregnancy is common in B.C. 40 per cent of pregnancies are unintended at the time of conception. Universal subsidy for highly effective contraceptive methods in B.C. would reduce overall unplanned pregnancy rates, including a more than 20 per cent reduction among those under age 30.
“It's a massive equity problem," says Dr. Wendy Norman, lead author of the study, Contraception Cost-Effectiveness in British Columbia. “Women and people who are able to plan the birth of their children are enabled to better meet their own education and employment needs, which further contributes to children's access to supportive environments including adequate food, shelter and schooling. In the absence of accessible contraception, many women and people with unplanned/unwanted pregnancies then experience compounded disadvantages which have intergenerational impacts."
Researchers also engaged government decision makers, with support from the Women's Health Research Institute, to conduct a cost effectiveness model, which helped contribute to the new policy.
Some of the most effective contraceptive methods are expensive to women, but for governments, investment in subsidized contraception represents a longer term savings.
“We found that the cost to manage unintended pregnancies, exceeds the cost to provide contraception subsidy for women in B.C.," says Dr. Norman. “In fact, in just four years, providing free prescribed contraception could save the province $27 million each year."
For a person who pays $25 a month for hormonal pills, free prescription contraception could save them as much as $10,000 over their reproductive life span.
Learn more about contraception and emergency contraception through Options for Sexual Health's website or call 1-800-739-7367.