B.C. budget: Province becomes first in Canada to offer free prescription contraception

WATCH: Speaking in the B.C. legislature on Tuesday, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy says the province will make prescription birth control free to women, transgender and non-binary residents as of April 1.

With the release of the provincial budget on Tuesday, B.C. will become the first province in Canada to make prescription contraception free for all residents.

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said free prescription contraception will be available for women and transgender and non-binary people starting April 1.

The program will fully cover prescription contraception options, including most oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices, subdermal implants and Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill).

“We know cost varies, but it really adds up for someone who pays $25 a month for birth control pills,” Conroy said in her speech to the B.C. legislature.

“Mr. Speaker, as a mom of two daughters and five granddaughters, I know the effect this is going to have on people’s lives in our province.”

She estimated the measure will add up to about $300 a year in savings, and as much as $10,000 over a person’s lifetime.

“This is a win for health and it’s a win for gender equity in our province. And it’s about time. The days of passing down these costs to women, trans and non-binary people are coming to an end,” Conroy said.

The program is anticipated to cost $119 million over three years.

B.C. advocates say this is a positive step.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair of the AccessBC campaign for free prescription contraception, told The Canadian Press the policy is exactly what his organization has spent years calling for, and advocates are “so excited.”

Bondaroff said free prescription contraception improves health outcomes for infants and mothers, makes life more affordable and equal, and he expects it will also save the government millions of dollars each year.

He said there’s more work to be done to improve access to sexual and reproductive health care in general, but members of the campaign hope B.C. “will become a beacon of hope for reproductive justice across Canada and North America.”

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