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NDP promising free birth control for Albertans if elected in May

Alberta's NDP is promising to follow in the footsteps of B.C.'s NDP and make birth control free if it wins the next provincial election. 

Party leader Rachel Notley made the commitment Wednesday morning – International Women's Day – calling provincially covered  birth control "the kind of thing that's long overdue in terms of providing equitable access to health care to at least half of Alberta's population."

A government under her leadership would spend an estimated $30 million each year covering the cost of oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal IUDs, subdermal implants and Plan B. 

Notley estimated Albertans who pay for the pill every month would save $10,000 over their lifetime. 

"One barrier to access is cost, right now, so this is about eliminating the cost barrier and providing a much more reliable form of health care to so many women – cis, transgendered, two-spirited – across Alberta." 

Health minister Jason Copping said his UCP government is not considering universal birth control.

"We'll look at this down the road, but the reality is at this point in time there is significant access both through public and private plans," he told reporters at the legislature.

"And for those who don't have funding available, we are providing support through Blue Cross plans."

He was asked if the government is not expanding funding for birth control because it may make Catholics mad and replied, "No, not at all," with a laugh.

 A little over a week ago, the B.C. government announced it would become the first province in Canada to make prescription contraceptives free beginning April 1. 

That province's program is budgeted to cost $119 million over the next three years. 

Advocacy group AccessBC says the move will save the provincial government $95 million per year by reducing social spending costs and health-care costs of unintended pregnancies. 

Notley said similar programs are offered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries because "it's good health policy, good economic policy, and it's the right thing to do." 

During the event, the NDP also reminded the public that Alberta's government under Premier Danielle Smith downsized the Status of Women associate ministry to the responsibility of a parliamentary secretary and promised to revive the department. Top Stories

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