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City of Victoria calls on province to fund free birth control

Victoria council calls for funding for all female contraception
Victoria city council has voted unanimously to recommend the provincial government fund all forms of female contraception. Brad MacLeod reports. Today's Global News Hour at 6 Health Matters is brought to you by Pharmasave.

The City of Victoria has become the first B.C. municipality to add its name to a call for free prescription contraception in the province.

The initiative is being spearheaded by a group called AcessBC, which argues that public coverage of contraception will cut down on unplanned pregnancies and support low-income youth and women, who are disproportionately affected by the cost of birth control.

On Thursday night, Victoria city council unanimously supported a motion to sign on to the campaign and call on the province to roll prescription contraceptives into their Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage.

Sarah Potts was one of two Victoria city councillors to propose the motion, and told CKNW Mornings the coverage is badly needed.

READ MORE: Canadian youth need access to free contraceptives: Canadian Paediatric Society

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Canadian contraceptive care providers identify cost as the single most important barrier to access and use,” said Potts.

“For example, in 2014, 59,000 young people under age of 24 had unintended pregnancies.

UC Davis now offering vending machine that dispenses contraceptives
UC Davis now offering vending machine that dispenses contraceptives

Potts pointed out that vasectomies are already covered under MSP, and that condoms are usually handed out for free to young people.

But she said women are usually left to bear the costs of female contraceptive options.

IUDs can cost as much as $380, birth control pills can cost $240 a year, while hormone-based contraception can cost up to $180 annually, she said.

“This policy is about increasing equality,” said AccessBC co-founder Devon Black in a media release.

READ MORE: The Pill was legalized 50 years ago, but experts say we can still improve contraceptive access

“When vasectomies are covered by BC’s Medical Services Plan and condoms are handed out for free, it’s galling that contraception for people with uteruses can still cost hundreds of dollars. That cost puts it out of reach for far too many people.”

Are fewer women using birth control pills?
Are fewer women using birth control pills?

Potts pointed to a 2010 study by Options for Sexual Health, which found covering contraception would cost about $50 million per year, but would save as much as $95 million annually.

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“Every dollar spent on contraceptive support for women can save as much as $90 in public expenditure on social support,” she added.

READ MORE: The current way oral birth control is prescribed can be costly, ineffective: study

With Victoria’s support, the initiative will now go to a meeting of the Association of Coastal Communities to try and earn the backing of municipalities across Vancouver Island.

Potts said they also hope to bring it to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), to earn the backing of cities across the province.