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Advocates are celebrating news British Columbia will become the first in Canada to make prescription contraception free to all residents starting April 1.

The announcement first promised by the B.C. New Democrats ahead of the 2020 election was part of Finance Minister Katrine Conroy's budget speech Tuesday.

The new program, funded with $119 million over three years, will cover prescription contraception options, including most oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices and subdermal implants, along with so-called Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff, chair of the AccessBC campaign for free prescription contraception, says the policy is exactly what his organization has spent years calling for, and advocates are "so excited."

Phelps Bondaroff says free prescription contraception improves health outcomes for infants and mothers, makes life more affordable and equal, and he expects it will also save the government millions of dollars each year.

A study conducted in 2010 estimates that paying for prescription contraception would save the B.C. government about $95 million a year through reductions in abortions, prenatal visits and social supports.

Phelps Bondaroff says there's more work to be done to improve access to sexual and reproductive health care in general, but members of the campaign hope B.C. "will become a beacon of hope for reproductive justice across Canada and North America."

In her speech on Tuesday, the finance minister said fundamental reproductive rights are under attack all too often, but not in B.C.

Conroy estimated that a person who spends $25 every month on contraception will save about $10,000 in their lifetime with the new plan.

'Beacon of hope': B.C. advocates cheer free #contraception promise in 2023 budget. #BCPoli #BCBudget

"This is a win for health and it's a win for gender equity in our province. And it's about time," she said.

"The days of passing down these costs to women, trans and nonbinary people are coming to an end."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.

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