Yukon NDP pushes for free prescription birth control IG News

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Women’s advocates say an NDP-led push for free birth control in the Yukon could remove barriers to family planning and ease the burden on the territory’s health system.

On Monday, the Yukon NDP filed a notice of motion urging the Liberal government to fully subsidize prescription contraceptives such as IUDs and birth control pills for all Yukoners.

It comes a week after B.C. announced it would become the first province to cover prescription birth control costs for its residents.

In Yukon, the government pays for contraceptives for some Yukoners through social assistance, the Children’s Drug and Ophthalmic Program, and the Yukon Sexual Health Clinic. But for Yukoners who are not eligible for subsidies, advocates say the higher prices could deter family planning.

Jasmine Marie works with pregnant women and new parents at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Center in Whitehorse. She said clients have told her they’ve struggled to pay for more effective contraceptives.

“The ones that … work better for them are the more expensive ones,” Mary said. “And they have to try a different contraceptive.”

For example, in the Yukon the upfront cost of IUDs can be $500 and contraceptive implants can cost up to $350, both permanent years before they need to be replaced. If those prices are too high, people may turn to alternatives that don’t work as well for them, but cost less in the short term.

Those costs are not always shared equally.

Ashley Hope at the Yukon Status of Women Council said that women and gender-diverse people often pay for birth control themselves. He said that removing financial barriers to family planning promotes gender equality.

“It really enables women and gender-diverse people to more easily and freely make decisions about their bodies and health, including whether or not they choose to become pregnant,” Hope said. Said.

It’s unclear how much it would cost the territory to provide prescription birth control to all residents – B.C., with a population of more than 5 million, would spend $119 million over the next three years – but Yukon NDP legislator Emily Trader believes It is believed that it will save the government money in the long run.

“It’s worth thinking about the cost of not providing free birth control,” she told CBC News.

A woman stands holding a piece of paper in a government legislature.
NDP MLA Emily Trader believes the plan will save the government money in the long run. (Government of Yukon)

Trader said the cost of unplanned pregnancies and abortions places a greater burden on health care and social programs than subsidized contraceptives.

Nearly half of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, according to a 2022 report by the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency.

The Yukon NDP made universal access to prescription contraceptives part of its 2021 election campaign platform, but Trader said the recent announcement in B.C. has prompted him to raise the issue again in the legislature this week.

‘The reality is people are paying for it now’

The advocacy group AccessBC helped lead the campaign for free contraceptives in that province. Co-founder Teele Phelps Bondaroff said the change in BC was primarily a matter of gender equality and better health care, but he agreed it would also be economically beneficial.

“Right now, you cover the cost of unplanned pregnancies through public health, whether it’s funding for abortions, whether it’s funding for distribution, whether it’s funding to address some of the complications that result from unplanned pregnancies. could,” he said.

“So the reality is people are paying for it now.”

Phelps Bondaroff notes a 2010 study by Vancouver-based Options for Sexual Health estimated that publicly funded contraception could save the BC government $95 million a year.

The B.C. government also said last week that, when prescription birth control becomes free in the province in April, a person spending $25 a month on oral contraception could save up to $10,000 over their lifetime.

In a conversation with Trader in the Yukon legislature on Monday, Health and Social Services Minister Tracey-Anne McPhee said the government already subsidizes birth control in some cases, and her department will look at how B.C.’s program rolls out. .

A spokesperson for Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services said in an email to CBC News that the government is looking at expanding access to birth control, but that it will take time.

“Development of a new program will first require careful planning, research and engagement with Yukoners and health system partners,” the spokesperson said.


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