Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill to Ban Most Abortions After Six Weeks

On Thursday, April 13, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, following its clearance by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature. This move paves the way for Florida to become the 15th state to either ban or heavily restrict the procedure since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.[0] The legislation prohibits abortions after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant, with exceptions for mothers whose lives are at risk and for abortions up to 15 weeks for pregnancies caused by rape, incest, or human trafficking. The law also mandates that two doctors agree the abortion was “necessary” and requires the patient to provide documentation proving they were the victim of rape or incest.[1]

In April 2022, DeSantis enacted a 15-week abortion prohibition in Florida. The ban was quickly challenged in court and may end up being brought before the Supreme Court.[2] The state’s six-week ban means that there is now a swath of more than 780,000 square miles in the United States where people cannot access the procedure.[3]

Although the law represents a significant triumph for proponents of outlawing abortion, surveys indicate that the majority of Floridians and Americans are in favor of upholding access to abortion in the majority of circumstances.[4] A survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that almost 66% of individuals in Florida support the legality of abortion in most or all situations. A recent survey revealed that around 75% of voters in Florida are against a six-week abortion ban without any provisions for rape or incest, including 61% of those who identified as Republicans.[5]

Abortion has put the Republican Party in a difficult situation.[6] Abortion rights remain a persistent issue, and Democrats are vocalizing their support in conservative states such as Wisconsin and Kansas, driven by the significant turnout of women and young voters.[6] An issue that inspired its base for decades has become a loser for Republicans, and effectively banning abortion is indeed a major vote loser for them.[7]

DeSantis has mostly refrained from discussing abortion, even as he travels across the nation to promote other bills he has approved.[8] Instead of making the six-week bill a prominent item on his agenda, he chose to give ambiguous support by stating, “I’m willing to sign great life legislation,” to a reporter who pressed him on the matter.[8] The imposition of a six-week ban has created a rift within his circle, with certain contributors vehemently against it while other members of the Republican Party are keen to put it behind them.[8]

Attempts by the legislature to limit abortion in Florida have been consistently thwarted by courts for many years.[9] In 1989, the State Supreme Court recognized that a privacy provision in the state constitution “is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision of whether or not to continue her pregnancy.”[9] According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the right to obtain an abortion in Florida is safeguarded by a precedent set by the state’s supreme court. This ruling acknowledges that an individual’s privacy rights entitle them to access abortion services.[10] For the more stringent prohibition to be enforced, the court needs to affirm the law.[4]

The vote in Florida comes a week after a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a pill used commonly in abortions that received FDA approval in 2000.[0] The Justice Department will seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court after a Texas appeals court partially blocked a controversial ruling but preserved other provisions, including restricting its applicability to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday.[0]

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, a total of 13 states have implemented restrictions on abortion, while Georgia has introduced a ban on abortions after six weeks.[3] Florida is considered a refuge for people seeking abortions in the South, particularly since nearby states such as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi have bans in place that have forced abortion clinics to close.[5]

Even DeSantis’s own constituency may be negatively impacted by his decision.[1] The vast majority of Floridians, 64%, think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a study released in February by the Public Religion Research Institute. The recent Democratic triumph in Wisconsin due to a landslide victory indicates that abortion is a significant factor in winning elections.[1]

It is clear that the issue of abortion access remains a deeply divisive issue in the United States, as Republicans continue to push for more restrictive measures while Democrats fight to maintain access to the procedure. As the battle over abortion rights continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how the American public will ultimately respond to these developments.

0. “DeSantis Signs Florida’s 6-Week Abortion Ban” Forbes, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianbushard/2023/04/14/desantis-signs-floridas-6-week-abortion-ban

1. “Ron DeSantis Knows Just How Unpopular His Abortion Ban Is” The New Republic, 14 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/171939/photo-will-haunt-ron-desantis-2024-bid

2. “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs six-week ‘heartbeat bill’ into law to limit abortion” Fox News, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/florida-governor-ron-desantis-signs-six-week-heartbeat-bill-into-law-limit-abortion

3. “Abortion Access Could Be Blocked In Much Of The South After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signed Into Law A Six-Week Ban” BuzzFeed News, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annabetts/florida-house-passes-six-week-abortion-ban

4. “Gov. DeSantis signs 6-week abortion ban hours after Legislature passes” Tallahassee Democrat, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/local/state/2023/04/14/gov-ron-desantis-signs-6-week-abortion-ban-hours-after-legislature-passage-heartbeat-protection-act/70113986007

5. “‘It’s a scary time’: Florida Democrat vows to keep fighting six-week abortion ban” The Guardian US, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/13/florida-democrat-lauren-book-fight-six-week-abortion-ban

6. “Ron DeSantis May Fall Into His Own Abortion Trap” The Daily Beast, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/ron-desantis-may-fall-into-his-own-abortion-trap

7. “Abortion is a big vote-loser for Republicans” UnHerd, 12 Apr. 2023, https://unherd.com/thepost/abortion-is-the-big-vote-loser-for-republicans/

8. “Inside Ron DeSantis’s embrace of Florida’s six-week abortion ban” The Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/04/14/ron-desantis-florida-six-week-abortion-ban

9. “Florida Gov. DeSantis signs 6-week abortion ban” CNN, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/13/politics/florida-abortion-ban/index.html

10. “DeSantis signs Florida’s 6-week abortion ban into law” Axios, 14 Apr. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/04/13/florida-6-week-abortion-ban

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