WATCH: Governor Shapiro Speaks with Doctors and Advocates at Planned Parenthood to Discuss His Administration’s New Health Insurance Guidance for Over-the-Counter Contraception

“What we’re trying to do is cut through that red tape, cut through the B.S., and get stuff done – which is our mantra. In this case, making sure folks have access to the pill and that they have access to it for whatever reasons they determined with you they need. And together, I know we’re making progress here in Pennsylvania. – Governor Josh Shapiro

Harrisburg, PA – This week, Governor Josh Shapiro urged health insurers in Pennsylvania to make contraception more accessible and affordable, announcing new guidance on insurance coverage that may save women nearly $250 a year for over-the-counter contraception. This new guidance is a continuation of Governor Shapiro’s commitment to defending a woman’s right to choose and to have access to a full scope of reproductive healthcare.

After making the announcement, Governor Shapiro met with doctors and reproductive healthcare advocates to discuss the importance of women’s freedom to make their own healthcare decisions and the right to access the full scope of reproductive healthcare. 

Governor Shapiro has always fought for a woman’s right to choose – including launching a website for reproductive healthcare resources to help Pennsylvanians find information about both medication abortions and in-clinic procedure abortions, and joining the multi-state Reproductive Freedom Alliance to safeguard abortion access, protect abortion providers, and affirm abortion rights.

Click here to watch what Governor Shapiro’s conversation with Pennsylvania doctors and advocates and read key excerpts from the conversation below.

Governor Josh Shapiro: Thank you so much for joining me for this conversation. We’ve got a big announcement today which we’re really excited to make, and I’m excited that you’re part of it. But you know, it centers around creating access to birth control over the counter without having to jump through a bunch of hoops with insurance companies and you all are on the front lines every day of helping deliver healthcare and full range of reproductive healthcare for women. I just want to get your sense of what this means and why is this necessary?

Dr. Sharee Livingston: I think the most important message that I send to my patients as an OB/GYN physician is that oral contraception pills are safe, and they’re effective. That’s what they need to know.

Tara Murtha, Women’s Law Project: 88% of young people in recent survey said that they didn’t have adequate access to contraception […] We definitely need over the counter access.

Governor Josh Shapiro: And the pill has been around for decades. It has a lot of different uses, right? I think sometimes people hear ‘birth control pills’ and they think of pregnancy.

Dr. Sameera Mokkarala: One of my specialty practice elements is working with patients who are variously medically complex. And for those patients what they need from their birth control, may not be birth control. It may be the management of you know, menstrually precipitated seizures. It may be headache control, cramps, and heavy bleeding. You know, you shouldn’t have to make excuses to your insurer – you shouldn’t have to go through options that certainly won’t work for you before you’re allowed to try the option that will.

Governor Josh Shapiro: I think that justification piece you’re talking about – that infuriates me. And I’m sure it infuriates women all across Pennsylvania. I mean, if I’ve got allergies and I want to go to the store and get an allergy pill, I shouldn’t have to justify that. We’re talking about needs that women have, and they should be able to get that. I get so angry when opponents of freedom go out there and they talk a big game about freedom – and then they’re constantly trying to restrict what women can do with their own bodies, what doctors – who have gone through all the training have all the degrees, all the requirements – what you’re allowed to do with your patients. And I’m curious how all this lands on you? Like how do you think about these issues of freedom? How do you think about your own professional responsibility?

Dr. Sharee Livingston: It’s terrifying. Not under a month ago, I had a patient that I was ruling an ectopic pregnancy out. Ectopic pregnancy is the number one cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester – weeks 0 to 14. And so the issue then becomes, well, what if it’s not really an ectopic pregnancy? And what if it’s an intrauterine pregnancy that’s undiagnosed? Well, now I’m kicking the can down the road. I’m delaying care and putting her at risk for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Which could kill her. This is what OB/GYN physicians are struggling with.

Dr. Sameera Mokkarala: I feel very fortunate to practice in a state like Pennsylvania because I have friends all over the country who are practicing in these restricted states and knowing the barriers that they face to take care of their patients in a way that is consistent with the oath that we all took – to do no harm.

Governor Josh Shapiro: The average woman that has to go to the pharmacy to pick up her pill and then has to jump through hoops with insurance companies. What are they thinking?

Tara Murtha, Women’s Law Project: I mean, the people that I talked to are well aware that the barriers before them are strategically placed there. They know that the purpose is really – it’s an obstacle course. It’s really a war of attrition, you know, and unfortunately, a lot of that war of attrition of can somebody – do they have the energy, time, and money to scale all of these cumulative barriers?

Dr. Sameera Mokkarala: My staff and I are on the phone to patients about this – on the phone with insurers about this all the time. And so we very directly get the frustration from patients about ‘Why isn’t this being filled? Why isn’t this being approved?’ They’re aware of the reason why those barriers are in their way, and they hate it.

Governor Josh Shapiro: Well, that’s what we’re trying to do is cut through that red tape, cut through the B.S., and get stuff done – which is our mantra. In this case, making sure folks have access to the pill and that they have access to it for whatever reasons they determined with you they need. And it doesn’t cost them anything, or costs them, you know, very little. I’m really grateful that you’re here and that you’re on the frontlines doing this work. And together, I know we’re making progress here in Pennsylvania. And I’m just really thankful for the work you’re doing.

        # # #

Media Contacts

Governor's Press Office

Governor's Office Media