There was a jubilant conversation on the Aisle team Slack channel about the Province of BC’s recent announcement that effective April 1st, 2023, it will fund access to birth control for its citizens.
The rationale for doing so is clear: for many, the cost of birth control - IUDs can cost up to $400 - is inaccessible, and yet is far less costly than unplanned pregnancies. As a society, given that Canadian citizens should be able to freely choose whether to prevent or pursue pregnancy, it logically follows that we should have access to the necessary means for doing so. Such initiatives are to the benefit of all citizens.
Access to free birth control allows for greater control and choice over family planning decisions, as a matter of human rights. Given the non-negotiable role that menstrual management also plays as part of the human fertility cycle, many of us are eager to see whether the Province’s move is a harbinger for the inclusion of menstrual products as part of a similar plan. It’s common sense to appreciate that if someone is having trouble affording basic medical necessities like birth control, they are having the same issue with menstrual products.
Having access to cost-free menstrual products, including sustainable solutions such as period underwear, washable pads or menstrual cups would have a direct impact on quality of life, including examples like students’ ability to attend classes, exams, sports and extracurricular activities. Workers provided with free menstrual products would be less likely to need time away from work to manage their periods. Recent changes to the Labour Code in Canada requires that all federally regulated workplaces need to provide menstrual products for their workers by December 2023! All citizens who menstruate deserve equitable access to living comfortable, dignified, productive lives. Efforts like this promotes menstrual equity and helps to solve period poverty.
A wonderful side effect of the provision of free birth control is that it raises and normalizes visibility, dialogue and education about a topic to some extent still shrouded in shame and mystery: sex. Menstruation suffers from a similar plight to sex in this way: when we don’t talk about it openly, people suffer. Ignorance can have critical impacts, and bringing it out in the open in this way can have untold benefits that don’t necessarily show up on a balance sheet.
To the government of British Columbia, we thank you for this progressive leadership. And we also ask: can menstrual products be next?
How can I get free period products?
If you're living in Canada here's how to access free period products near you.
Here's why we should be supporting menstrual equity in post-secondary institutions with reusable menstrual products and free period products in schools. It's a necessary and crucial step towards relieving period poverty.
Update: What country has free period products? Now Canada, at least for federal workers!
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