Health Care

Governor McKee signs executive order protecting Rhode Islanders who provide abortion from out-of-state legal liability

“The executive order I signed today ensures that Rhode Island will continue to stand up for reproductive health care, especially in response to the shameful United States Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.”

July 5, 2022, 7:05 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee today signed an executive order protecting access to reproductive health care in Rhode Island, ensuring that individuals who come to Rhode Island seeking reproductive health services will be safeguarded from legal liability in other states.

“Women should be trusted with their own health care decisions, and here in Rhode Island, we firmly support a right to choose,” said Governor McKee. “The executive order I signed today ensures that Rhode Island will continue to stand up for reproductive health care, especially in response to the shameful United States Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.”

The executive order codifies most of what reproductive rights advocacy groups, such as The Womxn Project, have asked for. You can access the letter they sent to Governor McKee here.

We are grateful to Governor Daniel McKee for signing an executive order today providing specific protections for people who provide, seek and support people in getting abortion care,” said The Womxn Project in a statement. “It is critical that we do all we can to ensure that whether someone needs to come to our state to get an abortion or our neighbor needs services, that we do all we can to get rid of barriers. 

We laud this important step and are so grateful to the many activists who spoke out, organized, rallied and helped to make this happen. This order helps to send a clear message that Rhode Island will be a safe haven for anyone seeking abortion care.  We should not be allowing archaic, horrific laws from other states to cause harm to our people or to people who seek compassion and care in Rhode Island.  

We are pleased to see this action today. It is a wonderful win for people who believe – including the majority of Rhode Island voters and voters across the nation – that that we should each get to make our own decisions when it comes to abortion and control our bodies and futures.  The fact remains that we are still imposing a huge financial barrier by denying benefits for abortion for people who use Medicaid and state employees. This is wrong and it needs to stop! 

We will continue to speak out and show up to push to get rid of the obstacles whether it is based on the insurance someone uses or how old they are. But for today we are celebrating. These orders matter! We will not abandon people in other states or the people who support folks in finding care they need! We will care for us. ALWAYS!” 

In addition to protecting patients, the Governor’s order protects providers in Rhode Island who perform reproductive health care services for individuals from another state, ensuring they do not lose their professional licenses or become subject to discipline on out-of-state charges.

The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom applauds Governor McKee for issuing an executive order that seeks to protect Rhode Island health care providers and patients from the harmful effects of abortion bans and restrictions in other states. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s unprecedented eradication of the fundamental constitutional right to abortion, it is up to states like Rhode Island to continue fighting to protect our health care providers and ensure patients can get the legal abortion care they need,” writes the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (RICRF) in a statement. “While seeking to help those from other states in need of abortion, we must eliminate at the earliest possible opportunity the Rhode Island laws that unfairly impose barriers to abortion access to our own residents. The need to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) is more critical than ever. Too many Rhode Islanders face abortion bans in our own state: Rhode Island state laws determine who can use their health insurance to cover abortion — and who can’t. We need our champions to act for abortion access in Rhode Island by passing the EACA.

The order also prohibits any Rhode Island Executive Department agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services. It also states that Rhode Island will not cooperate with extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges against individuals who received or performed reproductive health services that are legal in Rhode Island.

We thank Governor McKee for taking executive action yesterday to offer protections to Rhode Island abortion providers and patients seeking reproductive health care, including abortion, in our state,” said Gretchen Raffa, Vice-President of Public Policy, Organizing, and Advocacy for Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping millions of their federal constitutional right to abortion, the fight for reproductive freedom now rests with the states. As radical, extreme abortion bans become more commonplace in our country, we need to know there are champions in our state who will fight to protect our health, our rights, and our freedoms. We applaud the Governor for taking swift action in response.   

We know there is much more work to do in our state to ensure every Rhode Islander has equitable access to abortion. We must keep fighting. Here’s the reality: too many people in Rhode Island can’t exercise their right to abortion. Today, right now, state laws ban 1 in 3 residents from using their health insurance to cover abortion. Our legislators have the power to change it, but they haven’t.

This is a big election year for our state. This is our chance to elect legislators and leaders who will do everything they can to protect our rights, our health, and our freedom—including finally passing the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act.