NDP MP Irene Mathyssen successfully removed the federal tax on tampons in 2015 -- and now she's gathering support for a motion to make prescription birth control free.
Individuals have the right to access a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services and information, including a range of modern methods of contraception. Governments, in realizing the right to health, are obligated to ensure health services are: available, accessible (this includes economic affordability), acceptable, and of quality.
However, cost is one barrier, of many, that prevents individuals from accessing the contraceptive method of their choosing. According to Statistics Canada, 24% of Canadians must pay out of pocket for medications like contraception.
Costs associated with pregnancy prevention fall largely on women and trans people. The non-coverage of contraception is discriminatory towards women and trans people, as these individuals face a higher cost to make free and informed choices in regards to their reproductive health. Because this is discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, it is unfair.
Despite those who may object to free birth control, there are many reasons why prescription birth control should be free. Making birth control free saves Canada billions in health care costs. It benefits those who take it, is effective in reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions, and increases equal access to sexual health products.
First, it's a win for taxpayers and for businesses. In the long run, free birth control is actually more cost-effective because of the high cost of unplanned pregnancy. For example, U.S. taxpayers shell out $12 billion a year to cover unplanned pregnancy costs.
Additionally, free birth control has significant health and economic benefits for women and trans people. Birth control can prevent illnesses -- like ovarian and endometrial cancers, polycystic ovary syndrome, and heavy menstrual bleeding -- conditions that are not even related to pregnancy. And for those who want to eventually get pregnant, birth control can allow a family to conceive at a time when they are adequately prepared with appropriate prenatal and postnatal care.
Health aside, research shows that birth control has major economic benefits for women -- allowing them to become financially sustainable, continue their education or career, and take care of their families.
Research has shown that access to birth control is effective in regard to other social issues, too. Access can greatly reduce abortion, unintended pregnancies, and teen pregnancies. Two studies from the U.S. demonstrated that access to birth control can result in major decreases in unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
Additionally, making prescription birth control free lifts access barriers that unfairly affect particular populations. Youth, immigrants, and those of low socioeconomic status, face greater marginalization in healthcare which can create a greater barrier to accessing contraceptives. These individuals are less likely to be eligible for public or employer-provided benefits, and thus face the greatest cost for contraception.
To protect the lives of our mothers, daughters, and sisters, we must give free access to prescription birth control. Not only is access to health in this manner a right, but access improves the productivity and health of our nation in general.
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