Doctors at the Canadian Medical Association's annual general meeting voted today in support of a motion asking the federal government to pay for birth control.
About 70 per cent of the eligible voters supported the motion on Wednesday in Yellowknife.
Dr. Sarah Cook, a family doctor in Yellowknife who introduced the motion, said teen pregnancy in the Northwest Territories is almost three times higher than the national average.
She said birth control is not accessible enough for many women.
"There are many women that don’t have access to employer benefits and who are not covered by NIHB [non-insured health benefits for First Nations and Inuit] here who do not have treaty cards that would be able to access that, so I see that very frequently," said Cook.
Even if it is accessible, it’s often costly. Some methods, such as a hormonal IUD (intrauterine device) can cost almost $500. Cook said she sees cost barriers to contraception every day.
Dr. Ewen Affleck, also of Yellowknife, supported Cook, arguing that unwanted pregnancies are more expensive than birth control.
"We know that half the women with unintended pregnancies seek abortion services. Those who continue their pregnancies seek prenatal care later, have higher rates of smoking during pregnancy, higher rates of pre-term delivery and low birth weight babies," said Affleck.
The issue was hotly debated, as some doctors worried about the cost to the government.
"Specifically who’s going to pay for this?" asked Dr. Laurence Colman of Toronto. "Is this going to be a provincial or territorial or federal program that will be available to all patients? There's a cost that’s involved," said Colman.
In the end, the motion passed.
The doctors expect it can be used to help lobby the government for birth control coverage.