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Advocates, Providers Praise Senate Passage of Bill to Safeguard LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders' access to essential care

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




The Rhode Island Senate voted on May 2, 2024 to approve Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Dawn Euer’s (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) bill to protect medical providers who provide transgender and reproductive health care services in Rhode Island from civil or criminal suits from other states or their residents.


The passage of the bill (the “Health Care Provider Shield Act,” (SB2262) by a vote of 29 to 7 in the Senate drew praise from advocates for health care access, reproductive health care, and LGBTQ+ equality.


“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.”


The bill now heads to the House for consideration, where by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton) has introduced its companion bill (2024-H 7577). 

 

If passed by the House and enacted into state law, 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


“Family doctors, OBGYNs and other practitioners want to be able to deliver high quality, essential care for our patients. Here in Rhode Island, we are able to provide the care that Rhode Islanders need, 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 continue to deliver the standard of care and excellence that our patients deserve,” said Dr. Heather A. Smith, OBGYN and president of the Rhode Island Medical Society. “We need the Healthcare 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.

If this legislation is enacted, Rhode Island will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia which have already passed health care shield laws to protect providers and patients and ensure their states remain desirable places to practice medicine. Among those 12 states, four other New England states - Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, where Governor Janet Mills just signed a bill into law last month - have similar shield laws to protect providers and access to 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 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.

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