Free birth control fights stigma, saves money

By: Iris Dyck

A group of students and doctors are lobbying Manitoba’s political parties to include birth control in their election platforms.

Birth Control Access for Manitoba (BCAM) is a volunteer organization advocating for free contraception for anyone who needs it. They want all provincial government parties to include it in their platforms for the 2023 election.

Paige Mason is a volunteer with BCAM and a political science major at the University of Winnipeg. Her work with the group involves writing statements and speaking with political leaders. She believes the benefits of free contraception far outweigh the costs.

“Everyone will say, ‘Oh, well, if you give free birth control, it’s going to cost so much,’” she said. “But in reality, unplanned pregnancies cost about $320 million a year.”

BCAM maintains free contraception is as much about choice as it is about cost. People are sometimes forced to choose what’s affordable rather than what works best for them.

“The most effective forms of birth control, like an IUD, are the most expensive,” said Mason.

Although some urban centres offer donation-based and free birth control, some rural Manitobans are unable to access them. Other Manitobans may have trouble accessing contraception due to a lack of information.

Kennedy Legault, a Digital Film and Media Production student, started taking birth control five years ago. It came with some unwanted side effects.

“I was taking the pill and it was making me very low mood, almost into a state of depression,” she said.

Legault took the pill at the advice of her doctor, who wrote her the prescription without going over other birth control options.

“If I was able to try something else, like an IUD or the patch, it would have been easier, but I was never really given that choice,” she said.

As an RRC Polytech student, Kennedy Legault says free birth control would save her money. /IRIS DYCK

Mason and BCAM believe free access to birth control decreases the stigma surrounding it, and fights the idea that only women use birth control.

“There’s a [mis]conception that this is a women’s issue, but it’s not a women’s issue. We need to be more inclusive around the language we use because trans and non-binary people also need to use birth control,” said Mason.

Legault agrees.

“I think especially nowadays it’s something that should just be part of life,” she said. “It shouldn’t be something that you should be ashamed of.”

The Manitoba Liberal Party has included free birth control in their election platform. Mason hopes BCAM’s lobbying will get the Manitoba NDP and Manitoba PC Party on board, too.