OPINION: Feds progressive free prescription contraceptives

Apr 4, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion

Canada said it will be making contraceptives free for women.

This move by the government will empower women and allow them to make informed decisions without thinking of financial barriers.

The initiative will be a part of the upcoming Budget 2024, which will be presented in the House of Commons on April 16.

This will include intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive pills, the day-after pill, hormonal implants, contraceptive injections and emergency contraceptives.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to X and announced contraceptives will become free in Canada on March 30.

“Women should be free to choose the contraceptives they need without cost getting in the way,” he said.

Universal access to contraceptives for women is a part of the first phase of the National Pharmacare program.

The cost has always played an important role for many when choosing a contraceptive. Effectiveness and side effects are important but take a back seat when the cost factor kicks in.

It is stressful for women to know that the most effective contraceptives are expensive.

Health Canada in a report in February 2024, said, an IUD, which is 99 per cent effective, may cost as much as $500, making it unaffordable for many, particularly young girls.

Oral contraceptives cost about $300 a year and have a typical use failure rate of nine per cent compared to 0.20 per cent for IUDs, Health Canada said.

A report by the Canadian Paediatric Society said Canadian contraceptive care providers have identified cost as the single most important barrier to accessing contraceptives.

Finance should never be a barrier when it comes to health and safety and so the step taken by the Federal government is welcomed.

Moreover, giving free contraceptives is the best way to increase their use and hence reduce unintended pregnancies.

According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide, there were 46 per cent unintended pregnancies in Canada from 2015 to 2019.

Of these unintended pregnancies, 37 per cent ended in abortions. The direct cost that is associated with unintended pregnancies in Canada is over $320 million.

On the other hand, the Canadian Medical Association Journal in its report had estimated the cost of giving hormonal contraceptives across Canada would be $157 million.

The step by the government not only promotes reproductive freedom for women, it will lead to improved well-being of women, help women make better family planning decisions and give them development opportunities.

Imagine not having to worry about the cost of contraceptives and being able to choose the best one for yourself based on the effectiveness, side effects, maintenance and lifestyle.

As a woman, I feel empowered knowing I do not need to worry about the cost of contraceptives.

Access to free contraceptives should be a basic human right, as is the right to choose whether or not to reproduce.