B.C. will become the first province in Canada to provide all residents with free prescription contraception beginning April 1.
Sought after by advocates for years, the government finally made the commitment in its 2023-24 budget released on Tuesday (Feb. 28).
B.C. says it’s investing $119 million over the next three years to ensure everyone under the Medical Services Plan can access contraception products, copper IUDs and the morning after pill at no cost.
Complementing the change will be pharmacists’ new ability to make low-risk prescriptions themselves. This will allow people seeking contraception to head to their local pharmacy instead of waiting for a doctor’s appointment. The new power is expected to come into effect sometime in the spring.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff, co-founder and chair of AccessBC, says the new coverage will improve health outcomes, make life more affordable and reduce stigma around birth control.
“It’s a question of equity.”
He said Tuesday’s announcement addresses the cost barrier, but that there is still more work to be done around increasing access for people in rural and remote area. Phelps said he’d also like the province to turn its attention to access to abortion.
Still, the change is welcome news for Phelps, who’s been fighting for free contraception for six years. He said he hopes it inspires other parts of North America to do the same.
“B.C. is now a beacon of hope for reproductive justice.”