Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs 6-Week Abortion Ban Into Law

The law won’t go into effect until the state Supreme Court rules on a challenge to Florida's current 15-week restriction on abortion.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Republicans’ restrictive, six-week abortion ban into law Thursday night.

“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in statement. “I applaud the Legislature for passing the Heartbeat Protection Act that expands pro-life protections and provides additional resources for young mothers and families.”

The bill passed the Florida House on Thursday afternoon with 70 members voting for the ban and 40 voting against. The legislation not only bans abortion after six weeks ― a point at which most people don’t realize they’re pregnant ― but also prohibits telehealth for abortion care and allots $25 million annually to support deceptive anti-abortion pregnancy centers. Republicans in both the Florida House and Senate voted down amendments to audit the $25 million, which would ensure the government knew how the taxpayer money is spent.

The law won’t go into effect until the Florida Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the state’s current 15-week ban on abortion. Abortion rights groups are not optimistic about that ruling, given that DeSantis stacked the court with conservative judges after three longtime justices retired in recent years.

“From Ron DeSantis down, many lawmakers in Florida will stop at nothing to take away our freedom to make decisions about our own bodies,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement after the vote.

“These policy decisions disproportionately hurt Black and Latino people, LGBTQ+ people, and people with low incomes due to systemic racism and discrimination,” she added. “While today we mourn the imminent loss of abortion access for millions of people, we will keep fighting back in the days, months, and years to come until all Floridians can get the care they deserve without barriers or delay.”

The success of the abortion ban is critical for DeSantis, who needs to pad his anti-abortion record ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run. Although he has yet to announce his presidential bid, DeSantis will likely face a crowded Republican primary pool in 2024, including well-known anti-abortion advocates former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

DeSantis has backed more and more extreme legislation in recent years. He banned books and Black history courses, prohibited gender-affirming care for transgender minors and approved a law to allow concealed carry without a permit. DeSantis also expanded powers to crack down on supposed voter fraud ― particularly concerning given that the voting booth is one of residents’ only tools to fight back against abortion restrictions.

Unlike the current 15-week abortion ban, the six-week ban includes exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking, but only up until 15 weeks of pregnancy. In order to get an abortion, the victim “must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation” to prove she was a victim of rape or incest, according to the bill.

The ban also includes an exception for the life of the pregnant person if two physicians certify in writing that the woman will die if she continues the pregnancy. Several Democrats have criticized the two-physician requirement, citing a lack of doctors in rural areas that could hinder women from receiving lifesaving care.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America applauded DeSantis and anti-abortion Republicans in the state.

“Florida lawmakers today delivered a major win for babies and mothers and a huge step forward for the Sunshine State,” state policy director Katie Daniel said in a statement following the vote.

“Governor DeSantis stands unflinchingly for science and the will of the people, who rewarded pro-life Republicans with landslide victories in last year’s midterm elections. We thank all our allies, including House Speaker Paul Renner and sponsors Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka and Sen. Erin Grall, who worked tirelessly to get the Heartbeat Protection Act across the finish line, and we eagerly await Gov. DeSantis signing it into law.”

Lawmakers and Floridians have passionately debated the six-week ban since it was introduced in March. After the ban passed the Senate earlier this month, 11 people, including Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D) and Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, were arrested in Tallahassee during a peaceful protest.

Many residents gave powerful testimony during committee hearings about the bill, sharing their stories of illegal abortions in the 1960s and issues with disabilities. A handful of people who testified said that they may leave the state because of the extreme ban.

“There is nothing that my wife and I would not do … to protect our daughter. This bill threatens all of our daughters’ rights to bodily autonomy and subjects them to the possibility of state-enforced torture in the form of forced pregnancy,” Florida resident Jake Flaherty testified during a Senate committee hearing last month. “If this bill is signed into law, my family is on its way out of Florida, and I know that we will not be alone.”

A six-week abortion ban will devastate access not only for Floridians but also for people seeking care across the Southeast. Florida had become a safe haven for abortion care since the U.S. Supreme Court repealed federal abortion protections last year, leading nearly a dozen states, mostly in the Southeast, to enact near-total abortion bans. Those who have the resources to travel have gone to Florida or North Carolina to get access abortion care. These bans disproportionately affect low-income people, women of color, people who live in rural areas and trans and gender-nonconforming folks.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented on the ban earlier in the day on Thursday, after the House passed successfully voted the bill through.

“This ban would prevent four million Florida women of reproductive age from accessing abortion care after six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant,” she said. “This ban would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in abortion-banning states throughout the South, many of whom have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care.”

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