The case for comprehensive contraceptive funding in Northern Ontario

There are more than 180,700 unintended pregnancies annually in Canada, costing the health system more than $320 million a year. Contraception is a safe way to healthily control reproduction, but health-care providers cite personal cost as the primary barrier to its access. While the current Ontario government’s OHIP+ plan covers contraception, this coverage is restricted to those under 25 who have no third-party insurance.

With the ever-growing social trend of having families later in life, this means that without contraceptive coverage, Ontarians 25+ are spending at least half of their reproductive lives at risk for unintended pregnancy. Those living in the rural and remote communities of Northern Ontario are particularly vulnerable, having some of the highest unemployment (read: uninsured) rates in the province. The Ontario NDP recently announced the intention to fund $60 million for contraception for all; this is the only current political platform that provides cost accessibility and reproductive rights for patients in Northern Ontario.

Women in the lowest income bracket are two times less likely to use contraceptives and six times more likely to experience teen pregnancy compared with women in higher income areas. Accordingly, women and parents in Northern Ontario report higher rates of unintended pregnancy, less access to contraception and less availability of full-time employment with comprehensive drug coverage. And the cost of an unplanned pregnancy in a rural or remote context is greater than in an urban setting, reflecting travel costs to the nearest hospital hundreds of kilometres away, long-term child care coverage, airfare for their partners and long-distance phone calls, all of which urban patients do not have to contend with.

Contraception access is not only a financial issue, but one of equity and human rights.

Contraception access is not only a financial issue, but one of equity and human rights. By asking patients to pay for contraception, the government places a price tag on the ability to control one’s own health and reproductive freedoms. Equitable access to affordable contraception is an effective public health measure that reduces unintended pregnancies, supports healthy spacing between planned pregnancies and reduces high-risk pregnancies. Additionally, the benefits of universally funded contraceptive care provides remedy to a variety of reproductive health and dermatological disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and hormonal disorders.

Universal contraception cost coverage would further advance human rights by tackling the financial gap that exists between women (or those with uteruses) and men. Contraception, while something that affects two members in a relationship, is almost exclusively the financial responsibility of the child-bearing partner. Women, transgender men and non-binary individuals with uteruses are exclusively paying for contraception (and, additionally,  menstrual hygiene products),  a hidden “period tax” that unjustly increases the baseline cost of living for these populations. The lack of this expense for cisgender men, for whom condoms are easily available and contraception options like vasectomies are completely covered by OHIP, contributes to the widespread social concept of the gender pay gap. This financial inequity can only begin to be equalized by eliminating the hidden costs of reproductive freedoms.

The Ontario NDP’s pledge to fund $60 million annually for comprehensive contraceptive care is a great launchpad but is still only the tip of the iceberg for equitable contraception accessibility for patients living in remote and rural communities. Cover ContraceptiON is a grassroots, non-partisan, volunteer-run campaign that is championing the need for a $157-million contraception benefit for all Ontarians.

While this number may seem excessive, the cost is negligible when compared to the health and social costs of rural and remote travel for unintended pregnancies, prenatal visits, abortions and youth parenting. Comprehensive contraceptive coverage is the only political stance that will eliminate inordinate medical costs and empower the reproductive freedoms of patients living in Northern Ontario.

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Jamie Thompson


Jamie Thompson is a medical student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Thunder Bay. Her interests lie in health advocacy, OBGYN, Indigenous health and Métis beadwork.

Kaitlyn Zugic


 Katie Zugic is a second-year medical student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. She is passionate about planetary health. She is also a researcher, rock climber and avid explorer.

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