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A Canadian province just became the 1st to offer free birth control. Will Ontario follow suit?


In less than a month, British Columbia will be the first Canadian province to offer free birth control.

This will include oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), subdermal implants, and Plan B.

Now, some Ontario residents are asking: will this province follow suit?

New Democratic Party (NDP) MPP Jennie Stevens is pushing the Ontario government to say yes.

Stevens tabled a motion on Wednesday to expand Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage to include contraception. “The recent announcement by British Columbia only underscores the urgency of this issue,” she said at Queen’s Park on International Women’s Day.

Standing alongside her, Dr. Hava Starkman, co-lead and co-founder of Cover ContraceptiON, said a move towards free contraception would mean massive savings for the province. For every $1 spent on contraception, about $90 will be saved for the province, Starkman told CTV News Toronto ahead of the announcement.

“If we think about Ontario […] you can expect over $100,000 saved annually, based on the research done across the country thus far,” she added. “What is Ontario waiting for?”

The push comes at a time when the province is crunched for cash, based on a Financial Accountability Office (FAO) report released on Wednesday that found Ontario will be short about $21.3 billion in health spending by the 2027/2028 fiscal year.

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones would not firmly commit to supporting the NDP’s motion during question period at Queen’s Park Wednesday, but said the Ministry of Health would be happy to take a look at the motion and make an assessment.

“We will continue to see where there is validity and where we can continue to work together on important issues like women’s reproductive health,” Jones said.

Pushing back, NDP MPP Doly Begum said Ontario will fall behind if action is not taken. “Existing coverage for contraception leaves low-income individuals, especially women from marginalized communities, behind,” Begum said. 

Ontario currently covers the cost of contraception for those 24 years old and younger who do not have a private insurance plan. That leaves patients over 25 years old paying several hundred dollars per year for contraception.

Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients may also qualify for free contraception.

However, Starkman said the available coverage streams only reach a small percentage of the population.

“Our main point is that cost is the greatest barrier to contraception,” Starkman said.

The annual cost of unintended pregnancies in Canada amounts to more than $320 million, while a national universal contraception program is estimated to cost $15 million, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. “Taxpayer dollars are already going to this issue,” Starkman pointed out.

For years, she has been pushing alongside co-lead Dr. Nour Bakhache and 80 healthcare professionals toward the goal of providing universal, no-cost contraception. In 2020, 1,000 healthcare professionals signed a petition supporting universal contraception coverage.

The British Columbian government has said it will spend about $119 million over the next three years on the program, which begins on April 1. Top Stories

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