Student Reflection - Making Change Means Caring
Sophie C

Hi! My name is Sophie. I’m a Grade 11 student and the Senior School’s Social Justice Steward. I can usually be found doing Physics homework or leading school initiatives, but I'm also involved in another cause: nearly one year ago, I began volunteering for the political campaign AccessBC, which lobbies for universal access to no-cost prescription contraception in British Columbia. Making prescription contraception free has a wide variety of benefits, particularly considering the rollback of reproductive rights in many countries right now, even just across the border. Not only does it save the provincial government millions of dollars in costs associated with unintended pregnancies, but it also decreases adverse health outcomes for people who can get pregnant and promotes health equity, as the cost of contraception should not be a barrier to making choices about your bodily autonomy and long-term health.

I volunteer as AccessBC’s Marketing Director. In December last year, I organized our first public advertising campaign, renting billboard and transit advertising space to broadcast our message more widely and remind the provincial legislature of their past promises to subsidize prescription birth control. You might have heard me talk about this campaign on the news—I spoke with CBC Radio, CTV, the Canadian Press, and other news outlets! It was my first time ever doing TV, radio, or press interviews, and I still haven’t gotten used to it. But it seemed like the media attention worked; we received a direct response from Premier David Eby, emphasizing his commitment to free contraception in the province.

We got more exciting news at AccessBC in February, when we learned that the free contraception policy would finally be included in the upcoming provincial budget! This was announced on February 28th, making British Columbia the first province in Canada to completely subsidize the cost of prescription contraception. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was when I walked out of my French test to see an email with the subject line ‘WE WON!’ from the campaign founder and one of my most influential mentors, Teale Phelps Bondaroff. This policy has been a long time in the making. AccessBC was founded in 2017 by a group of university students who wanted to see Canada follow in the footsteps of other countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Sweden in becoming a beacon of hope for reproductive justice, and for people like Teale—who have dedicated years to pushing for free contraception as a first step to full reproductive autonomy in the province—this is the culmination of years of campaigning by hundreds of supporters and eighty AccessBC volunteers, from doctors to university students, writing letters to their representatives and doing the difficult work to make the public understand the many benefits of this policy, still barely daring to dream that free contraception might one day be a reality for British Columbians.

As the only high school student on the AccessBC campaign, I’ve fielded plenty of questions from reporters about why this matters to me, and whether young people should care about reproductive justice at all. The answer is always the same: young people deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health, including their reproductive health. Respecting youth as individuals with bodily autonomy is a human rights necessity. The idea that we shouldn’t have these choices devalues our well-being and self-determination.

Since the budget announcement, AccessBC has been working on social media outreach and supporting our sister campaigns in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan. I’m also pitching in on a billboard campaign in Alberta led by several of our allies! The work to make prescription contraception universal isn’t over in British Columbia, let alone Canada, but we’re committed to making it a reality.

I started volunteering with AccessBC because I cared. I wanted to focus some of my frustrations about reproductive inequity into a local outlet, and a group of incredibly supportive and knowledgeable people from across British Columbia were already engaging in those efforts. When I joined the campaign, I had no idea we were less than a year away from seeing this policy in action, that we would be on CBC talking about our campaign’s success and hearing stories from hundreds of British Columbians about how free contraception will change their health and lives for the better. Making change doesn’t have to mean becoming Prime Minister or getting involved in a hundred different initiatives. It can mean caring: passionately, deeply caring, an emotion or capacity that can sometimes be absent from our lives, and to me, must be a quiet gift of some kind. This kind of caring—the fierce hope that we can make life a little bit easier for everyone else—is what matters most.

Contributed by Sophie C, Grade 11 Student