Nearly three-quarters of Albertans support free prescription birth control, survey suggests

A large majority of Albertans support the idea of the government providing universal access to free birth control, suggests a new poll from a Calgary-based public relations firm. 

In April, B.C. will be the first province to make birth control free to residents

a person holds packets of white and blue pills
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said if elected her government would make prescription birth control free, similar to British Columbia's government. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press)

A large majority of Albertans support the idea of the government providing universal access to free birth control, suggests a new poll from a Calgary-based public relations firm. 

ThinkHQ, an Alberta public and government relations and opinion research firm, provided the poll to CBC. It found that 74 per cent of Albertans surveyed approve of the idea of free prescription birth control while only 18 per cent disapprove.

British Columbia will soon become the first jurisdiction in Canada to make prescription birth control free to its residents. Starting April 1, the province will cover the cost of oral hormone pills (commonly known as "the pill"), injections, implants, IUDs, and the morning-after pill. 

Marc Henry, ThinkHQ president, said the support shown in the poll results are surprising. 

"Getting three-quarters of a population to agree with any piece of public policy these days, it is a bit astounding. It's very popular in Alberta," Henry said. 

He added that approval of the idea largely crosses all demographics and regions of the province.

WATCH | Premier Danielle Smith's response to the Alberta NDP's contraception proposal: 

Opposition MLAs ask Alberta premier why she won't adopt their free contraception plan

3 months ago
Duration 3:13
Premier Danielle Smith downplayed the need for the opposition party's free prescription contraception plan, saying people seeking birth control have many options already.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said earlier in March that if elected premier, her government would also cover contraceptives. She said it will save Albertans money, help prevent unintended pregnancies, and ensure women have more control over their lives and economic futures.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said contraception is available to Albertans who are enrolled in government-sponsored drug and supplemental health benefits. 

"The vast majority of prescription drugs are covered under private plans," Smith said. 

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, agreed that it is unusual to see the kind of consensus demonstrated by the poll among a diverse population. 

"Some people think of this as an issue affecting only half of the population, but of course it affects families, people that are trying to … have access to medication," she said. 

She added that people can use birth control to treat a variety of health conditions and that it can often be quite expensive. Most birth control pills cost $20 a month while an IUD can cost around $500. 

Albertans are expected to go to the polls in May — Williams said that recent polling shows that health care and affordability are the most important issues to voters in the province. 

"If those continue to be the important issues, it will be a question of which party, which leader, which vision is seen as most credible and effective at achieving that vision." 

The poll surveyed more than 1,100 people online. The sample is weighted to reflect the gender, age, and location make-up of the Alberta population, and has a margin of error of close to three per cent, 19 times out of 20.


Jade Markus

Digital journalist

Jade Markus is a digital journalist at CBC Calgary.

With files from Scott Dippel, Jason Markusoff