AMS joins calls for free prescription contraception

The AMS is joining the BC Federation of Students in calling for free prescription contraception in BC.

On July 17, the BC Federation of Students (BCFS) endorsed an AccessBC campaign calling on the provincial government to fulfill its electoral promise to make this form of contraception free. The AMS is not part of the BCFS, but told The Ubyssey in a recent interview that it also supports the campaign for free contraception.

The 2021 and 2022 BC budgets did not include free prescription contraception — like oral contraception and IUDs — but the BC NDP promised free contraception in its platform ahead of the 2020 provincial election.

The Ministry of Health’s 2021/22–23/24 Service Plan also said it “support[s] equitable access for contraception for all, including access to free prescription contraception.”

“Students are already struggling to keep up with the sky-rocketing costs of living coupled with the cost of attending post-secondary education,” said Tashia Kootenayoo, the secretary-treasurer of the BC Federation of Students and UBC Okanagan student representative on the Board of Governors, in a press release. The Students' Union Okanagan of UBC is a member of the Federation.

“Access to free contraception allows struggling students to make one less difficult decision: food or contraception,” Kootenayoo added.

Though the AMS has not formally endorsed the AccessBC campaign, Erin Co, the AMS’s vice-president external, said the student society supports access to free prescription contraception.

On August 3, Co said she met with Dr. Teale Bondaroff, the AccessBC chair and co-founder, about how the AMS can support the campaign.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Co said the AMS is offering “[to advocate] to different politicians and key stakeholders for this policy to be in effect in the long-term,” and wants to “explore a proactive partnership in getting free prescription contraceptives to students as soon as possible in the short-term.”

Co also said the AMS is looking internally and working with AMS Managing Director Keith Hester to see what the society can do to support students when it comes to free contraception. She said she is planning to bring options on how the student society can help to the Finance Committee in “a couple of weeks.”

Co has not consulted other campus student groups, but is planning to do so in the future once the AMS settles on which internal actions to take. She said she hopes to have student groups work alongside the AMS as partners in providing students access to free contraception. Groups like the Social Justice Centre have advocated for contraception and reproductive rights on campus, although Co did not name them in her interview.

“We also know that with this issue, it disproportionately affects low-income Canadian women, which a lot of UBC students are a demographic of,” said Co. “We want to make sure that students know what things are accessible to them and making sure that if there is a need, that need is filled.”

The AMS is part of the Undergraduates of Canadian Research Intensive Universities (UCRU), which is an advocacy coalition of student unions across Canada. Co, who is the chair of UCRU, said she will push the group to include access free contraception in its federal government lobbying priorities.

“For many, prescription contraceptives are a need, and we are working towards making sure that's recognized and implemented across the province."

— With files from Nathan Bawaan