The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, ending a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights. It’s now up to each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. Health reporter Lynn Arditi talked with our host Dave Fallon about what this means for Rhode Island.

 Dave Fallon:  Lynn, I know that Rhode Island is among the states that have enacted its own laws protecting abortion rights. So what are those protections? And could those state protections now be threatened by this Supreme Court ruling?

 Lynn Arditi: That’s of course the fear. But Rhode Island in 2019 passed The Reproductive Privacy Act, which  protects the right to abortion in the state. And just last month the Rhode Island Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Privacy Act which guarantees a women’s right to an abortion. So are Rhode Island’s abortion protections still going to hold post-Roe? Britany Raposa, a law professor at Roger Williams University, said: Yes. For now, she said, the state Supreme Court’s upholding of the Privacy Act ensures that Rhode Island is not going to return to a place where abortion is illegal. 

Fallon: With all the social media activity about the Roe decision, is there a concern about misinformation or the misperception even among people in states like Rhode Island that abortion is "illegal" everywhere after Roe’s repeal?

Arditi: Yes, in fact, groups like Planned Parenthood said they worry that anti-abortion extremists will use this moment to try to spread misinformation or trick people into thinking abortion care is illegal everywhere. And vulnerable populations like undocumented residents could be particularly at risk with this type of misinformation. And with the repeal of Roe, Raposa, the law professor, said that her colleagues expect that more than half of all states will be outlawing or significantly restricting abortion services.

Fallon: Is it likely that as more states outlaw abortions we’ll see people traveling to Rhode Island and Massachusetts seeking abortion services?

Arditi: Yes, people tell me that is likely. And in fact, it’s already happening. Planned Parenthood health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island said they’re already seeing patients from other states, particularly Texas, because those patients don’t have access to abortion care. 

Fallon: Does the state Reproductive Privacy Act mean anyone in Rhode Island who wants abortion services can get them?

Arditi: No, it does not. Low-income women who are covered by Medicaid, the government insurance plan, and those who are enrolled in state health plans –  like students at the University of Rhode Island – have no insurance coverage for abortion services. So for them, the cost of an abortion can be a huge barrier.

Fallon: Is that a lot of people? How many Rhode Islanders are we talking about whose insurance doesn’t cover abortion services?

Arditi: More than 85,000 women of child-bearing age in Rhode Island and their dependents are enrolled in state health insurance plans that prohibit abortion coverage, according to an anaylsis by The State Budget Office. So they could be forced to pay out of pocket for an abortion - which could prevent them from getting one. But health centers like those at Planned Parenthood say they’ll continue to provide health care services – including abortion services – regardless of insurance or immigration status. 

Fallon: So that means even in Rhode Island, there are still significant barriers to getting an abortion. Is there anything being done to address that?

 Arditi: Yes, in fact two Democratic state lawmakers – Rep. Liana M. Cassar, of Barrington, and Sen. Bridget Valverde, of North Kingstown, had introduced bills in the General Assembly that would have effectively required abortion services in Rhode Island to be covered by Medicaid and state employee health plans. But the General Assembly wrapped up the session early this morning without voting on the legislation, known as The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act.

Health reporter Lynn Arditi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LynnArditi