Government needs to deliver of promise of free contraception

Free contraception in B.C.

It is expensive to be a woman.

Yes, there are hair products, clothes, nail products and makeup, but then there are feminine hygiene products and contraception. If you have ever figured out the costs of these last items, you have realized how expensive they are.

Interestingly, there have been studies done that show that there is a “pink tax” – women’s products cost more than men’s. There is also a phenomenon called “period poverty”, where the costs of being a woman are unbearable.

I would argue that the first items – hair and makeup – could be considered discretionary, but the last two are not.

In the last provincial election I celebrated that all parties promised free contraception for women. That was something that everyone could agree on. It is something I have continued to ask for, formally as (B.C. Liberal) health critic and now as the critic for gender, equity and diversity.

I am disappointed the NDP government has had six years to deliver on its promise and it hasn’t yet. Which is why I will continue to press Health Minister Adrian Dix on this (issue).

Why is it so important? Equity.

Contraception is expensive. The types of contraception that typically have fewer side effects are usually the ones that cost more. Many women can’t afford contraception, which leads to unwanted pregnancies.

It is estimated 30 to 40 per cent of pregnancies in Canada are unintentional, according to Dr. Vivian Tam, a family emergency physician based in Ottawa.

"This disproportionately happens amongst women who are quite young, so those who are 15 to 24 years of age, those who live in rural and remote communities in Canada, who belong to Indigenous communities or are newcomers to Canada," Tam told CTV's Your Morning in July.

"This is the group that has the most difficulty in accessing contraception at large, but in particular, are long-acting reversible contraceptives, which are the most effective form of contraception."

Having free contraception allows those from marginalized communities, whether rural, remote, or lower socio-economic backgrounds, an equal footing when it comes to family planning.

Access to medical personnel is difficult, so having reliable and long-term contraception is important. Free contraception also decreases the disparity between those with additional medical coverage or the means to afford different forms of birth control.

It is another small blow to the cycle of poverty.

Additionally, contraception allows a greater degree of choice as a woman and is a form of gender equality. Women bear the burden of costly contraception, men do not.

Making sure women have access to birth control is imperative when reducing gender disparity. It is vital for equity that we see this come to fruition.

This need is true now more than ever. As costs have escalated with inflationary pressures, so have the costs of medication and drugs. Women are now having to choose between rent, food and medications, all while the government could have made huge strides to equality by making contraception free.

I will continue to press government to deliver in its promise, as it really is something that all parties agreed with.

My question to you this week is:

How should government support women better?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email. Please email me your thoughts at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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