Following several other Republican-led states, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law on Thursday. The current law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks, so the new law is cutting down the time pregnant people have to get an abortion by nine weeks. The new law, which is going into effect on July 1, does not permit exceptions for pregnancies produced from rape, incest or human trafficking. It will, however, permit an abortion procedure if it is decided to be necessary to save the life of the mother, to prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. In the case of a fetal abnormality, two doctors must sign stating that the baby would die shortly after birth for the abortion to proceed.
Previously, Florida’s 24-week abortion ban was one of the most lenient policies in the south. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida reported 71,914 cases of abortion in 2019, which was the third-highest rate in the country. Abortion advocates say that women from neighboring states would often travel to Florida to receive the procedure. Therefore, the new change to Florida’s law could have significant effects and implications throughout the south.
As DeSantis signed the bill, he said, “This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation.” Many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, were quick to condemn the bill. President Biden said, “Last night, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a dangerous bill that will severely restrict women’s access to reproductive health care.” Other democrat lawmakers from across the country have weighed in too. Rep. Robin Bartleman, a Democrat, said, “God forbid your 11-year-old is raped and pregnant and you find out after 15 weeks. You don’t get to get your daughter that abortion. That’s what this law says.”
The new law is modeled after another in Mississippi that also bans abortions 15 weeks after conception. That law was brought up to the Supreme Court and is currently being considered at the court. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected by 2022 but they have signaled support for upholding the Mississippi abortion law, which conflicts with their past rulings on abortion. Both in the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and again in the 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot ban abortion after fetus viability. This is the point at which the fetus cannot survive outside of the womb which is considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. If Roe is overturned in the court this summer, individual states would have the power to restrict abortion in the first two trimesters. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 20 states will quickly ban or severely restrict abortion if the Supreme Court weakens or overturns Roe.
Florida is now the third state, after Arizona and Kentucky, to enact a 15-week abortion ban modeled after Mississippi’s law. This new Florida law comes shortly after Gov. DeSantis signed another controversial bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.