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Sparwood dodges request for support for free contraception

Councillors didn’t take any action on a request from another municipality to join a campaign for no-cost prescription contraception

While other municipalities get behind a campaign for the provincial government to make prescription contraception free across the province, no councillors in the District of Sparwood wanted to touch the issue at the most recent council meeting.

Upon receiving the letter from Mayor Jonathan Cote of New Westminster urging other municipalities to write to the provincial government to request no-cost prescription contraception be made available under the Medical Services Plan (MSP), Councillor Saad voiced opposition to the campaign.

“I honestly think that it’s just giving young people permission,” said Cr Saad.

“They can buy (contraception) when they want … I don’t understand giving it away.”

Mayor Wilks interpreted Cr Saad’s comments as a motion to receive the letter, which is municipal speak for acknowledging that the letter had been received without any further action to be taken.

The motion was carried without discussion, with five councillors voting in favor, while Mayor Wilks and Councillor Brad Bowen abstained.

Seven municipalities have individually called on the provincial government to cover all prescription contraception at no cost under the MSP, including Cranbrook and Kimberley. Cranbrook’s council voted to support no-cost prescription contraception on Sept. 14.

Other municipalities include Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Squamish and as mentioned, New Westminster, while the body representing all municipalities - the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) - voted in support in free contraception across the province at the recent 2020 UBCM convention.

Dr Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who is the chair and co-founder of AccessBC- which has been lobbying for free universal contraceptives since 2017 - said that arguments related to cost had been dis-proven by studies from around the world.

“Programs that offer no-cost prescription contraception save government money, and by extension the public,” he said.

“The short answer (from studies) is if you can’t afford contraception, you can’t afford to raise a child, and those costs fall on the shoulders of the state and the taxpayer.”

He explained that many of the most effective forms of contraceptive were also some of the most expensive.

Phelps Bondaroff also took issue with the idea that free contraception would “give young people permission to have sex.”

“The reality is people are having sex. And if someone wants to have sex, or is ready to have sex, we should be making it as easy as possible for them to have safer sex, and that includes removing barriers to contraception.

“Unplanned pregnancies and STI’s shouldn’t be punishment for having sex, and that kind of thinking is outmoded, its backwards, its sex-negative, and its not a way of thinking that’s going to bring us a healthier and happier society.”

READ MORE: Cranbrook and Kimberley Councils support initiative calling on BC Gov. to cover prescription contraception
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