Free confidential contraceptives means less unwanted pregnancies

The financial and social costs of unintended pregnancies are high

Mairi Mallett, a nurse practitioner at Langara, holds various types of contraceptives. Photo by Safoura Rigi-Ladiz
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By Lina Chung

All provinces should provide free contraceptives to youth.

The Canadian Paediatric Society estimates that in 2014, there were approximately 59,000 unintended pregnancies in Canada among those under the age of 25.  Unwanted pregnancies can derail young lives. Educational and career plans, financial plans, mental and emotional health, and families can all be affected by an unwanted pregnancy.

Advocates for universal free contraceptives argue that providing free, confidential contraception, including condoms, decreases teen pregnancies. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, youth are more likely to use condoms when they are free.

In February, Vancouver city council passed a motion to request B.C. to cover the cost of prescription contraceptives under the Medical Services Plan (MSP). Their argument is a good one. Male contraceptive methods like condoms are low cost, but other methods for people with uteruses like birth control pills, hormone injections, and IUDs tend to be more costly.

Although contraceptive pills are a popular method, it is not the preferred one for everybody. Allowing people options when choosing birth control to find one that works for them will help ensure that they will be used.

Ontario had free coverage for a variety of prescription drugs, including birth control pills, for youth under the age of 25. Unfortunately, this was curtailed in the summer of 2018, by Doug Ford’s government.

Youth were excluded from the free coverage if they had extended health care benefits through a parent’s private health care plan.  Unfortunately, this change forces a young person to talk to their parent about contraception in order to access their parent’s plan.  Because some youth may not feel comfortable doing this, they don’t seek out contraception.

The Canadian Medical Association estimates that free contraception coverage for all Canadians would cost $157 million per year, but it would be outweighed by $320 million per year saved in direct medical costs related to unwanted pregnancies.

The savings are even greater when one thinks about the social support programs in Canada that would not have to be relied upon.

The business case for free contraceptives for all Canadians, especially youth, is clear.

 

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