(Billboard - Joel Satre/Access BC)

Commuters cruising along Highway 17 might notice a new advertisement meant to catch your attention. 

The Pat Bay Highway has a new billboard from AccessBC to remind MLAs who ride the ferry of their promise to make free contraception a priority for BC.

AccessBC is a grassroots organization chaired by Saanich Councillor, Teale Phelps Bondaroff. It is a volunteer based organization whose members are largely high school students who want gender equity to be put on the forefront of British Columbians minds. 

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The advertisement is AccessBC’s first billboard and it is located just south of Mt. Newton Cross Road on Highway 17.

Former premier, John Horgan wrote in a mandate letter to Adrian Dix, Minister of Health that free contraception was a priority for his government when he swore in his cabinet and Premier Eby’s focus in his mandate letter was no different when it came to birth control inequity. 

“Free prescription contraception has been a longstanding government promise,” said Sophie Choong, high school student and AccessBC’s Marketing Director who led the billboard fundraising campaign.

“Our fundraising campaign was massively successful, we look forward to our advertisements bringing greater attention to the AccessBC cause and we hope that it will help mobilize as wide a range of people as possible to pressure the government to include this important issue into the 2023 provincial budget.”

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can cost up to $500 and the price of birth control pills can be up to $20 per month. Other contraception methods such as implants could have a price tag upwards of $350 and hormone injections can cost up to $180 per year. 

The costs associated with birth control and contraception largely fall on women and people who can get pregnant and AccessBC’s mandate is that contraception be affordable and equitable for all genders. 

Studies have shown that not only would free contraception benefit British Columbians pocketbooks, but it would also save the province millions of dollars. According to AccessBC, It would save the province as much as $95 million.

“People accessing prescription contraception face inordinate and sometimes insurmountable costs, and these costs fall disproportionately on people who can get pregnant,” said Choong. 

“A system that prevents people from accessing healthcare necessary to make reproductive choices is a violent system. Free prescription contraception is long overdue in BC.”

The advertising that can be seen on the Pat Bay Highway was designed and implemented by high school students with the mentorship of other volunteers which include Phelps Bondaroff.

“For the past five years, the AccessBC Campaign has been advocating for free prescription contraception, and this is our first foray into public advertising,” said Phelps Bondaroff, AccessBC Campaign Chair and co-founder. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped support our campaign and to our amazing campaign team, and I hope that 2023 is that last year that people will face cost as a barrier to accessing prescription contraception in BC.”

The Pat Bay Highway was only the first step of AccessBC’s advertising campaign with bus ads and billboards planned for implementation on the lower mainland in the coming weeks and months.

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