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NDP calls on Nova Scotia government to make prescription birth control free

British Columbia's free contraception program will cover oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, hormonal and copper intrauterine devices and subdermal implants. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press - image credit)
British Columbia's free contraception program will cover oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, hormonal and copper intrauterine devices and subdermal implants. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press - image credit)

The leader of Nova Scotia's New Democratic Party says it's time for the Tim Houston government to implement universal contraception coverage.

On Tuesday, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to announce it will make prescription contraception free to all residents.

"We believe Nova Scotians should have the exact same access," said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. "We have a bill on the order paper right now that would do the exact same thing here."

That bill was introduced last year. Chender said seeing the B.C. government table it in their provincial budget proves that it can, and should, be done in Nova Scotia.

"The reality is B.C. has provided us with a path to show that it's possible," said Chender. "Every upstream intervention in health care is welcome and it will help ease the pressures on the system downstream."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The British Columbia government has pledged $119 million over three years to implement their free contraception program, starting April 1.

It will pave the way for full coverage of oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, hormonal and copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal implants. It will also cover Plan B, known as the morning-after pill.

Other groups in Nova Scotia have echoed the call, urging the provincial government to commit to birth control coverage.

"People with a uterus are fertile for almost 40 years, basically from age 15 to 50," said Dr. Martha Paynter, the director of research with Wellness Within, a non-profit reproductive justice organization.

"That is a very long time to download a major responsibility and financial burden that can have so many implications on people's lives and well-being."

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

The Nova Scotia Pharmacare Programs currently cover prescription contraception, but there may be deductibles and co-payments required based on the program and insurance coverage, creating a barrier for some.

Houston's Progressive Conservative government and the previous Liberal government have both said in the past they are reviewing the issue, but neither have committed to fully fund birth control.

"The Department of Health and Wellness continually reviews how we provide prescription benefits to Nova Scotians," provincial Health Minister Michelle Thompson said in an emailed statement.

"If there are any changes made, we will be sure to communicate this with the public."

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