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B.C. making prescription contraceptives free this year

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The B.C. government says it will be the first province in Canada to make prescription contraceptives free for all residents.

The province says its free prescription contraceptive program will begin on April 1.

The new program was announced during the province's 2023 budget overview, which was released Tuesday.

The province says it will spend $119 million over the next three years for the program.

The program will include oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), subdermal implants and Plan B.

The province says a person who pays $25 a month for hormonal pills would save up to $10,000 over their lifetime with the new free prescription contraceptive program.

Advocacy group AccessBC says the new funding will also lead to savings for both residents and the province.

"There is no ambiguity surrounding the cost-savings of universal no-cost contraceptive policies," said Dr. Ruth Habte, an obstetrics and gynaecology resident physician and AccessBC campaign organizer.

According to AccessBC, making universal prescription contraceptives free would save the province an estimated $95-million per year by reducing social spending costs and the health-care costs of unintended pregnancies

"Including universal no-cost contraception in the budget is supported by evidence and is the right move for patient care," said Habte.

AccessBC began campaigning for free prescription contraceptives in 2017.

Since then, the advocacy group says its campaign has been endorsed by 36 B.C. municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and other advocacy groups.

Victoria and Saanich are two municipalities that had already endorsed the call for free prescription contraceptives.

"Free prescription contraception is a fantastic policy that will improve health outcomes for infants and mothers, make life more affordable, increase equality, and save the provincial government millions," said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, campaign chair and co-founder of AccessBC, and councillor for the District of Saanich.

"This is a huge win for equality and it comes at a very important time," he said.

"As we see the roll back of reproductive freedom south of the border and around the world, B.C.’s leadership will make the province a beacon of hope for reproductive justice, and hopefully lead to the adoption of this policy more widely." 

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