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The Grassroots Island Group That Got Us Free Birth Control

After 7 years of advocacy, free birth control will finally be a reality.

Turns out Kitchen table rants can change the world

Free contraception is coming to BC, and it all started in a Saanich basement.

When Teale Phelps Bondaroff, now a Saanich city councillor, returned home after earning his doctorate in England, he and his partner were met with an extra cost they weren’t prepared for.

“At that time the intrauterine device, the hormonal type, was $350, and that’s a lot of money for a grad student who’s just come back and moved into a new city,” he told Times Colonist.

They ranted to their friend, lawyer Devon Black, and that rant was the beginning of a monumental movement for BC.

All birth control methods were free in Cambridge, England, where Bondaroff had studied. They thought, if it’s possible there, then why not in Canada?

We decided to do something about it and launched a campaign,” Bondaroff said. “We basically started off with just a Twitter account and tweeted some information.”

This was the humble beginning of Access BC, which has advocated for the policy for the last seven years. It paid off. Starting April 1, all contraception will be free in BC.

“We have a high school student who’s designing our billboards. We have lawyers and doctors and retired health practitioners and teachers. It’s an amazing team of people.”

These “amazing people” have collectively created a huge step forward for Islanders and all British Columbians.

Dr. Ruth Habte, Access BC’s campaign organizer, is a pharmacist-cum-physician doing her residency at UBC in the department of obstetrics and gynecology. She’s seen firsthand how vital access to contraception is for personal and province-wide health outcomes.

“Whether it’s for contraception purposes or whether it’s for heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, a number of different indications,” she said. “It ends up costing the person a lot in personal struggles and ends up costing the government, as well, a lot of money, so it’s a win-win situation when these medications are covered [by the Medical Services Plan].”

Every dollar spent on contraceptive support saves up to $90 in social-support spending, a savings of at least $95 million a year.

It goes to show that grassroots campaigns can make a huge difference.

So next time you’re having a tabletop rant session, lean into it. You never know what you could make happen.

You can head to their website to learn more about Access BC and how they made it happen.