The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) has endorsed the AccessBC campaign to provide every British Columbian with better access to contraceptives.
AccessBC, a campaign that began in 2017, calls on the B.C. government to lower the cost of contraceptives so everyone in the province can access it, regardless of their income.
Since the creation of AccessBC, Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair and co-founder of the AccessBC campaign, says over 30 municipalities in the province have endorsed the campaign. There have also been endorsements from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, Victoria Labour Council, Vancouver & District Labour Council, and now the BCFS.
During the 2020 provincial election campaign, leader of the B.C. NDP John Horgan tweeted his support for better access to contraceptives.
“Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to making choices about reproductive health. We’ll change that, making sure everyone can access the contraception they need,” Horgan wrote.
Since the tweet, his government has not implemented a strategy to help reduce the cost of contraceptives. AccessBC is putting pressure on the province to fulfill the promise they made almost two years ago.
“We’re trying to keep the pressure on the provincial government to follow through on its commitment and that means mobilizing allies,” says Phelps Bondaroff.
The average cost for the birth control pill is $20 per month. Other methods like the intra-uterine device (IUD) can range from $75 to $380. Hormone injections can cost a person $180 per year, and the birth control implant is estimated to cost $350.
“There’s a lot of barriers when it comes to accessing sexual and reproductive health services in Canada and B.C., and the cost is a major barrier preventing people from accessing contraception,” he says.
He adds that people from marginalized communities and people who live in rural communities face additional barriers, but cost is a barrier that can easily be fixed.
“Life is only getting less affordable and so the cost barrier to accessing contraception is becoming increasingly significant, especially with a pandemic and economic issues. We want to see the government follow through on its promise sooner rather than later.”
Tashia Kootenayoo, secretary treasurer at the BCFS, says students especially struggle with the financial costs of contraceptives as they try to keep up with the high costs of living. Since the BCFS endorsed the AccessBC campaign, they have received great feedback from students, she says.
“What I’ve heard from students is that they’re excited that we’re taking action here endorsing this campaign and helping push along this amazing effort by AccessBC,” Kootenayoo says.
She says the BCFS will be sending a message to the Ministry of Health and let the minister Adrian Dix know about their recent endorsement of the campaign.
In the fall, the student unions part of the BCFS will push the campaign on their campuses and social media, as well as informing students about how they can write a letter to their MLA.
Currently, AccessBC has a template available for people interested in raising awareness to write to their local MLA.
The goal for AccessBC is to have the free contraceptive campaign policy implemented before the current provincial government leaves office.
“Every month that we wait is another month where people face unnecessary barriers to accessing prescription contraception and that’s not acceptable in B.C.,” Phelps Bondaroff says.