Ontario’s NDP and other advocates are pushing for the Progressive Conservatives to create a plan for free contraceptives for all ages.
While the Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers prescription contraceptives for those under the age of 24, advocates believe that it should be covered beyond that, especially for those on family benefits plans who want to take birth control without the knowledge of their parents or spouse.
“This saves money in the long run on the health care system and in social services,” said Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles. “I think we need to broaden it out and realize that people’s reproductive life is a lot longer than that,” said Stiles, referring to the 24 year age cut off.
Zoe Lazaris, a 22-year-old who suffers from migraines due to a brain injury said that using hormonal birth control pills has helped to reduce her headaches.
“It’s improved my quality of life a lot. I don’t have to stay at home for a full day as often as I used to, when I was just taken out by a migraine,” Lazaris told the Globe and Mail.
Lazaris recently graduated from university and is no longer able to access her pills at a reduced rate.
“In my future, the coverage is going to look different depending on the jobs I get,” she said.
British Columbia became the first province to cover all contraceptive expenses for all ages, including the intrauterine device, or IUD, which can cost up to $500.
Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew has promised to do the same for his province in 2024.
In Ontario, the NDP are pressuring the Progressive Conservatives to create a similar plan under OHIP that would cover the cost of all forms of contraception.
So far, the Doug Ford’s PC government has not agreed to support it, saying that there are already several programs that cover prescriptions for adults under the age of 24.
There is also the Trillium Drug Program, which alleviates the cost of expensive prescription drugs for some patients.
“Our government already provides free, publicly funded contraceptives to nearly half of Ontario’s population through the Ontario Drug Benefit program and OHIP+,” said Hannah Jensen, a spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones.
However, advocates are pushing for more leniency, arguing that it should be easier and free to obtain contraceptives, without having to answer questions.
“It’s a much more involved process than just having access to an IUD or birth control pills,” Mohini Datta-Ray, executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto, told the Globe and Mail.
The organization serves youth aged 13 up to 29.
Datta-Ray argues that past the age of 24, many women don’t have access to OHIP and that they don’t want to tell their parents they are using contraception in order to use their insurance.
“What we’re seeing, unfortunately, is they don’t have access to contraceptive coverage, and so then sometimes abortion itself becomes a form of birth control,” said Datta-Ray, who noted that contraceptives are also used for endometriosis, a disease that affects the uterus and causes pain and potentially cancer.