Canada offers residents universal health care, but that does not include universal access to contraception. City Council Member Christine Boyle is fighting to change that in the city of Vancouver.
When British Columbia’s 2020 budget was released in February, it did not include universal coverage for prescription contraception, according to Vice. Health centers across B.C. distribute condoms for free. Boyle argues if condoms and vasectomies are available at a reduced cost or fully covered, prescription birth control for women should also be made more easily accessible. City Council Member Jean Swanson has also supported the proposal.
Vancouver City Council has since approved Boyle’s request for the government’s medical plan to cover the cost of prescription contraception options in B.C. Boyle hopes to see the province reach a final decision in favour of the plan before the next budget is released.
“Right now contraception for people with penises is covered and for people with uteruses, it isn’t,” Boyle told CityNews 1130. “It’s kind of a historic inequity.”
Boyle said the range of contraception options covered needs to be widened so that low-income people have equal access to reproductive decisions.
More than 1.9 million women aged 18 and up in Canada live on a low income. Young, low-income women are more likely to use no contraception at all or condoms because they are not able to access the full range of contraceptives available in Canada, according to a study by the University of British Columbia.
Unanimous support for a motion to ask the province for free prescription contraceptives.— Jean Swanson (@JeanSwanson_) March 4, 2020
Birth control is not one size fits all. When women do not have the choice to use the right method for them and are worried about how the options available might affect their health, they might be hesitant to use protection at all.
For low-income women in B.C., improved access to contraception could be life-changing. Lack of access to a range of family planning options is shown to lead to more unplanned pregnancies. Mothers who have unplanned pregnancies tend to give birth when they’re younger, not finish their education, and earn less income later in life.
When women have access to family planning, families can decide if and when they want to have children, maternal and infant mortality decreases, unsafe abortions are prevented, and women have more education and employment opportunities.
The odds of the province approving the contraception proposal are in Vancouver’s favour. Victoria, another major city in B.C., passed a universal contraception plan in January and other towns in the Lower Mainland region are considering similar measures.