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NDP promises some free birth control options for Manitobans, if elected

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The Manitoba NDP says it’s intent on strengthening provincial health care, and is promising many free birth control options for Manitobans — if the NDP forms government following the provincial election in October.

St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine and Union Station MLA Uzoma Asagwara were joined by NDP Leader Wab Kinew and a handful of other NDP candidates, physicians and members of the community for Sunday’s announcement in Winnipeg’s Rossmere neighbourhood.

The NDP’s plan would include universal coverage of several prescription and over-the-counter birth control methods, including the morning-after pill, hormonal injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices and oral contraceptives. Condoms are not included.

Uzoma, the party’s health critic, said the commitment to offering some free contraception is a game-changer for several groups, including low-income families, people with reproductive health needs and women eager to fully participate in the workforce.

“The impact is huge. We know that there are thousands of Manitobans who do not have access to the birth control and contraceptives that they need and that are best for their health, simply because they cannot afford it,” they said.

The cost to implement the universal coverage of select contraceptives is $11 million per year, according to the NDP.

The party was unable to provide an estimated tally of the number of Manitobans who would be eligible for the contraceptive coverage.

Three women stand up with a sign.
Manitoba NDP MLAs Uzoma Asagwara, left, and Nahanni Fontaine, right, stand on either side of Dr. Helen Pymar, a Winnipeg obstetrician and gynecologist following Sunday’s announcement. (Nathan Liewicki/CBC)

Asagwara says Sunday’s announcement stems directly with conversations with the province’s health-care employees.

“Unlike Brian Pallister, unlike Heather Stefanson, we’re not ignoring the voices of doctors, nurses and allied health-care professionals,” Asagwara said.

“Fundamentally, this announcement is about the fact that Manitobans deserve quality health care. They deserve health care that is there for them where and when they need it.”

Fontaine, the NDP’s house leader, says the movement to offer free birth control options is gaining steam across the country.

Three weeks ago, the British Columbia government announced it will be covering the cost of prescription contraception. That legislation goes into effect on April 1.

The Alberta NDP made a similar promise earlier this month.

“There’s a movement towards not only B.C., not only the announcement in Alberta. There’s really a movement all over, across the board, in recognizing people’s human rights in accessing free contraceptives,” Fontaine said.

“Free contraceptives increases our ability to determine when we want to conceive, when we want to have children or not. It affects personal health decisions, educational opportunities, economic opportunities, housing choices, to name just a few,” she said.

The party has been working on its birth control promise for a couple of years, she said, and its’s something a local physician is thrilled to hear.

Dr. Helen Pymar, an obstetrician and gynecologist who has been working in Winnipeg since 2004, was elated by B.C.’s announcement on free birth control in late February. She is also a founding member of Birth Control Access of Manitoba.

“I’m really excited because this means Manitoba might be the next province to be able to offer this,” Pymar said.

Pymar says 85 per cent of couples who don’t use effective contraception methods are likely to become pregnant within one year.

Package of birth control pills.
Dr. Helen Pymar says about 85 per cent of couples that are not using effective contraception methods are likely to become pregnant within a year. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press)

The number of unplanned pregnancies would be “drastically reduced” if people, including those from low-income households and those without medical insurance, had access to prescription contraceptives, Pymar said.

“I help those who want contraception methods to help determine their best options and I don’t think that their choice should be limited by what they can afford,” she said.

Asagwara agreed.

“The reality of it is there are many Manitobans — thousands upon thousands of Manitobans — who do not have any coverage whatsoever and who do have to pay out of pocket for different methods of contraception,” they said.

Pymar said that some of these methods can have added benefits, such as making menstruation lighter and less painful, which can reduce the need for more surgical procedures.

The NDP touted their plan as “significantly different” than what the current government is offering to Manitobans.

The party says their promise will remove barriers that exist for thousands of women, trans men and non-binary people, many of whom are not able to pay for the estimated $20 monthly charge, or $240 annually, to use oral contraceptives.

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15-year-old ATV driver dies in collision on New Brunswick highway

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A 15-year-old driver of an all-terrain vehicle has died after a collision on a Moncton, N.B., highway.

The RCMP say they responded to a report of a crash between a parked vehicle and an ATV on Highway 2 on Thursday afternoon.

Police say they believe the 15-year-old boy was driving on the shoulder of the highway when he collided with the parked vehicle.

The teenager, who was the sole occupant of the ATV, was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and died the following day.

Police say the three people in the other vehicle were not injured.

RCMP did not release details of the speed the boy was driving at the time of the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Woman found dead in suitcase in Newfoundland; spouse found dead, suspected in killing

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Police in St. John’s, N.L., say a woman’s body was found in a suitcase in the city’s downtown this week and her spouse — who was found dead a day prior — is suspected of killing her.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. James Cadigan says the 33-year-old Iranian woman’s body was discovered Tuesday night in a suitcase in a vacant lot. He says it had been placed in the area six days before.

Cadigan says her 34-year-old Iranian husband was found dead in his home on Monday.

He says police have not determined whether their deaths involve a murder-suicide, and he says the two “had no involvement” with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary prior to the discovery of their bodies.

Cadigan says the woman arrived in Newfoundland on May 15 and the man had been living in downtown St. John’s for several years.

Police are not releasing their names to protect their family’s privacy, and are looking for any information from the public about what happened.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Pilot dead after ultralight plane crash northwest of Fredericton

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FREDERICTON – The pilot of an ultralight plane died after the aircraft crashed in a cornfield about 25 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.

Ken Hodgson, fire chief of Keswick Valley Fire Department, says his team received a call at 11:33 a.m. about a crash in Burtts Corner, N.B., along Route 104, which links the province to Nova Scotia.

Hodgson says there were no other casualties.

Ambulance New Brunswick, the coroner’s office and RCMP also responded to the crash.

In a news release, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it deployed a team of investigators to an “aircraft accident near Fredericton.”

But the agency did not immediately respond to questions asking for details about the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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