Advocates, Providers Praise Senate Passage of Bill to Safeguard Rhode Island’s Health Care System, Access to Essential Care

Health Care Provider Shield Act limits risk of hostile out-of-state laws related to abortion, transgender health care

Update: Senator Gu has now added her vote in support of SB2262, bringing the final vote count to 30-7.

Advocates for health care access, reproductive health care, and LGBTQ+ equality praised the Rhode Island Senate for passing the “Health Care Provider Shield Act,” (SB2262/HB7577) by a vote of 29 to 7. The bill will protect the state’s health care system, doctors, other medical care providers, and patients from hostile out-of-state laws that could negatively impact delivery of care.

Sponsored by Senator Dawn Euer and Representative John G. Edwards, the Health Care Provider Shield Act will ensure that Rhode Island health care providers aren’t penalized under the laws of other states that have banned access to established, standard-of-care reproductive and transgender health care, and that patients can continue to receive quality, legal, essential medical care in Rhode Island.

“We’re grateful for the Senate’s prompt action in favor of this bill, which enables family doctors, OBGYNs, and other practitioners in Rhode Island to continue delivering high quality, essential care to our patients—including full-spectrum reproductive services and gender-affirming health care. This bill will protect our providers against actions from other states and allow us to deliver the standard of care and excellence that our patients deserve,.” said Dr. Heather A Smith, RI Medical Society President and OBGYN. “We need the Health Care Provider Shield Act to ensure Rhode Island remains a state where clinicians want to practice, and so that physicians can continue to provide our patients with quality, compassionate, and essential care when they need it.”

As multiple states have passed bans on abortion and transgender health care in recent years, authorities in some states, such as Texas, have also sought to intimidate or otherwise punish physicians or facilities in other states who provide such essential care to their residents. At least a dozen other states and the District of Columbia have already passed health care shield laws to protect providers and patients and ensure their states remain desirable places to practice medicine. Four other New England states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, where Governor Mills signed a bill into law last month – have similar shield laws to protect providers and access to care. 

“This is a big step toward securing critically needed safeguards for Rhode Island’s health care system. We are grateful to both Sen. Euer and Representative Edwards for their leadership on this bill and thank the Senators who voted to support it today,” said Polly Crozier, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “Rhode Island has a strong public policy commitment to protecting access to health care, including reproductive and transgender health care. The Health Care Provider Shield Act protects Rhode Island providers and patients from unwarranted out-of-state intrusion into medical decision making and ensures clinicians can continue to practice in line with the professional standards of care.”

The Health Care Provider Shield Act is supported by state health care associations and providers, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter, American Association of Nurses- RI/Rhode Island State Nurses Association, American College of Emergency Medicine Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, RI, National Association of Social Workers, Nurse Practitioner Alliance of RI, Primary Care-Population Medicine MD-MSc Program Class of 2024, Rhode Island Academy of Family Medicine Physicians, Rhode Island Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Rhode Island Medical Society, Rhode Island Academy of Physicians Assistants, Spectrum, Hospital Association of Rhode Island, Open Door Health, Planned Parenthood of Southern NE, Thrive Behavioral Health, Thundermist Health Center, Rhode Island Health Center Association, and Wood River Health Services. 

The Health Care Provider Shield Act will:

  • Protect Rhode Island healthcare providers from abusive civil or criminal litigation from other states
  • Protect Rhode Islanders from having their information about protected health care shared with law enforcement agencies in other states where such care is banned
  • Ensure Rhode Island providers aren’t unfairly penalized by health care institutions or insurance for providing legally protected health care consistent with the professional standards of care
  • Protect health care providers from surveillance that could negatively impact their ability to provide legally protected care
  • Protect all providers involved in delivering legally protected transgender and reproductive healthcare in Rhode Island consistent with the professional standards of care, including care via telehealth
  • Ensure Rhode Island’s resources are not used to further hostile litigation from states where essential healthcare is banned

“This is a good day for patients and providers alike. Penalizing providers for delivering effective, best-practice medical care takes away patients’ ability to make informed decisions about their own and their children and families’ health,” said Jeanne LaChance, President/CEO, Thundermist Health Center. “Rhode Island has a long history of supporting transgender people’s freedom to live without discrimination, including in access to health care. We deeply appreciate the Senate’s vote to uphold that standard.”

“Today, the Senate underscored the significance of patient access to legal, standard-of-care transgender and reproductive health care, as well as the protection of providers delivering these essential services in Rhode Island,” stated Vimala Phongsavanh, Senior Director of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “With more states nationwide moving to ban abortion and transgender health care, patients and providers continue to face heightened health and legal risks. We are grateful for Senator Euer’s leadership and look forward to working with Representative Edwards to pass the Health Care Provider Shield Act in the House.”

“I’m thankful to my colleagues who voted for this important legislation. The Health Care Provider Shield Act is about protecting established, best-practice medical care that is legal in Rhode Island and ensuring that our local providers and our health care infrastructure aren’t negatively impacted by hostile laws in other states,” said Senate Judiciary Chair Euer. “Politicians in multiple U.S. states are engaging in alarming government overreach, banning access to essential medical care and instituting civil and criminal penalties on providers for practicing medicine in line with the professional standards of care. This bill will ensure that these out-of-state laws aren’t used against health care providers in Rhode Island.”

“Decisions about essential health care should be made by patients, their families, and their trusted care providers, not politicians. It is critical that Rhode Island take steps to protect access to legal, standard-of-care health care for all who need it, along with the providers who deliver that care,” said Representative Edwards. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to quickly pass the Health Care Provider Shield Act.” 

The Health Care Provider Shield Act is also supported by a coalition of organizations including the ACLU of Rhode Island, Amnesty International USA, Center for Reproductive Rights, COYOTE, East Bay Community Action Program Rhode Island, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), House of Codec, Protect Our Health Care RI, PPRI Votes, Pride in Aging, RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence, RI Commission on Human Rights, RI Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, RI Public Health Institute, RI State Council of Churches, The Trevor Project, The Womxn Project, TGI Network, and Youth Pride Inc.

Learn more about the bill