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Calgary doctor behind petition to federal government for free, universal birth control

A Calgary doctor is at the helm of a group petitioning Ottawa, urging the federal government to offer Canadians free, universal access to birth control. 

Project EmpowHER, founded by Dr. Rupinder Toor, has gathered more than 600 signatures so far in the campaign for what Toor calls an “irresistible policy.” 

Toor, who started the IUD and Women’s Clinic in northeast Calgary, argues that reproductive rights are human rights and can’t be left to the whims of changing provincial governments.

“Access to birth control should be protected on the federal level,” she said.

Toor also said the policy makes sense in terms of health care and economics, adding that it would help the most vulnerable of Canadians.

“I have seen how access to contraception can change lives,” she said. 

“What I have learned is that for a lot of vulnerable people, life is something that just happens to them, they don’t get to choose what happens.”

But with access to reproductive technology and contraception, Toor said, these vulnerable women find more agency in their lives. 

“I just think now is the time for Canada to make sure that access to birth control is secure and equitable in this country.”

The concept of free, universal birth control is not new, but is gaining momentum. 

In B.C., access to birth control is free, and in Ontario, those under 25 can get contraception prescriptions fully covered.

Earlier this year, a poll found that 74 per cent of Albertans approved of the idea of free prescription birth control while 18 per cent disapproved.

As noted in the petition, interest in free, universal birth control is heightened as the changing landscape of reproductive rights unfolds south of the border following U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Dr. Amanda Black, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, said taking a universal approach to the issue has significant benefits. 

“We’ve got the data, we’ve got the pilots in place to show the need for this,” she said. 

Project EmpowHER will collect signatures until Aug. 25. The following day, which is World Contraception Day, the group hopes a member of Parliament will present the petition in the House of Commons.

To Toor, this campaign offers the public the ability to weigh in the issue.

“Birth control is a women’s issue, birth control is a men’s issue, birth control is a youth issue,” she said. “It’s something we can all get behind.” 

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