Florida Passes Six-Week Abortion Ban, Signaling End to Safe Haven for Abortion Access in the South and Devastating Impacts on Black Community

Florida, once considered a safe haven for abortion access in the South, has just passed a six-week abortion ban that will make abortion care illegal before most people even know they’re pregnant. This bill, supported by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, was passed during Black Maternal Health Week and will have devastating impacts on the Black community in Florida, who have sounded the alarm about its effects.[0]

Neighboring Georgia is one of the 12 states that have implemented a six-week ban.[1] The Florida bill, once signed into law by DeSantis, will effectively end the state’s reputation as a safe haven for people seeking abortions in the South.[1] After the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify Roe in the previous year, more than 4,000 individuals have made their way to Florida for abortions, traveling from places as distant as Texas and Alabama, where abortions are banned throughout all stages of pregnancy.[1]

The Republican-dominated Florida Legislature approved the ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a proposal supported by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis as he prepares for an expected presidential run. The legislation not only bans abortion after six weeks, but also prohibits telehealth for abortion care and allots $25 million annually for deceptive anti-abortion pregnancy centers.

For DeSantis, achieving the abortion ban is crucial as he aims to strengthen his anti-abortion stance in preparation for a possible presidential campaign in 2024. Despite not formally declaring his candidacy for president, DeSantis is expected to encounter a packed Republican primary race in 2024, with prominent pro-life supporters such as ex-President Donald Trump and ex-Vice President Mike Pence.[2]

The implementation of the bill signed by DeSantis will depend on the ruling of the Florida Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging the existing 15-week law.[3] The approval of the bill in both chambers is a significant win for those against abortion in Florida, who have been attempting to limit access for a long time. The Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow Roe v. Wade last year gave them renewed optimism.[3]

Democrats’ confidence is rooted in both public polling that demonstrates little bipartisan appetite for such strict abortion bans as well as recent case studies.[4] In a race focused on abortion, a candidate from the Democratic party succeeded in defeating her opponent by a margin of 11 points in the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, five months after the Republicans’ unsuccessful attempt to secure widespread victories in the midterms.[4] Moderate Republicans didn’t hesitate to donate to her victorious campaign, even if it meant crossing party lines.[4]

While abortion bans have gained support from religious conservatives aligned with the GOP, the topic has spurred an increased number of voters to support Democrats.[5] Republicans in recent weeks and months have suffered defeats in elections centered on abortion access in states such as Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin.[5]

In Florida, efforts by lawmakers to limit abortion have been consistently thwarted by the courts for many years.[6] In 1989, the privacy provision present in the state constitution was declared by the Supreme Court to be directly relevant to a woman’s choice of whether or not to proceed with her pregnancy.[6] A person’s ability to get an abortion in Florida is protected by a state supreme court precedent that found that a person’s right to privacy allows them to get an abortion.[3]

Exceptions for abortions are included in the six-week ban in cases where the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest, or human trafficking, or if severe health complications or death may result from the pregnancy. Additionally, abortions are permitted if the fetus has a fatal fetal anomaly.[7] In order to comply with the law’s exemptions for abortion care, written certification from two physicians is required. The certification must state that terminating the pregnancy is essential to prevent the woman’s death or prevent a significant and permanent physical impairment of a major bodily function.

The Florida House approved the bill on a 70-40 vote on Thursday.[2] It was approved by the state Senate last week.[8] As in Florida’s current law, the bill maintains exceptions allowing abortions later in pregnancy for medical necessity.[1] In the majority of cases, two physicians must attest that the abortion is needed to save the woman’s life or to avoid “substantial and irreversible” physical impairment. One physician is required in emergency situations.[9]

Implementing a six-week ban could assist DeSantis in demonstrating to conservative voters during a primary contest that he strongly opposes abortion. However, this decision also presents significant drawbacks during a general election. Republicans overall underperformed during the 2022 midterm elections, in part because Democrats and swing voters turned out in response to the high court’s abortion ruling.[4] Even if DeSantis wins the primary with the help of his abortion legislation, losing the general election is a possibility due to the changing public opinion on abortion.[7]

As the Florida House of Representatives discussed and voted on adjustments to Senate Bill 300, a bill concerning abortion that had already been passed in the state Senate earlier this month, the incident occurred.[10] In addition, the proposed legislation would prohibit physicians from providing abortion services through telehealth and mandate that medication for abortions can only be distributed by a medical professional rather than through mail.

Due to those protections, Florida had been a safe haven for women from the Southern region who were seeking abortions, while neighboring states gradually imposed restrictions on the procedure. Florida had the highest rate of legal abortions per 1,000 women amongst all the states in the country in 2020, with 19.1 abortions recorded.[6] The legislation prohibits the use of state funds to facilitate out-of-state abortions and mandates that abortion pills must be obtained in person.[11]

The six-week ban will effectively end Florida’s reputation as a safe haven for abortion access in the South, and will have devastating impacts on the Black community in Florida. While Republicans are pushing for stricter anti-abortion legislation to cater to their base, Democrats are gaining ground in elections by advocating for access to safe and legal abortion.

0. “Florida Passed a Abortion Ban, Black Floridians Will Feel The Impact” The Root, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.theroot.com/florida-passed-a-abortion-ban-black-floridians-will-fe-1850333898

1. “DeSantis wants a 6-week abortion ban. These Republicans say no.” POLITICO, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/12/florida-republicans-against-abortion-ban-00091744

2. “Ron DeSantis On The Brink Of Signing 6-Week Abortion Ban After House Vote” HuffPost, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/florida-abortion-ban-ron-desantis_n_643566e1e4b0859acb960553

3. “Florida abortion bill passes: 6-week abortion ban goes to DeSantis” Tallahassee Democrat, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/politics/2023/04/13/florida-abortion-law-6-week-ban-passes-desantis/70110844007/

4. “Democrats eager to tie anti-abortion bill around DeSantis in swing states” POLITICO, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/13/democrats-tie-anti-abortion-bill-around-desantis-swing-states-00091976

5. “Florida Legislature Passes 6-Week Abortion Ban | Time” TIME, 13 Apr. 2023, https://time.com/6271843/florida-6-week-abortion-ban/

6. “Florida House passes six-week abortion ban, sending bill to DeSantis’ desk” CNN, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/13/politics/florida-abortion-ban/index.html

7. “Dem Copies Disney’s Power Move in Attempt to Stop Florida Abortion Ban” Business Insider, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/dem-copies-disneys-power-move-in-attempt-to-stop-florida-abortion-ban-2023-4

8. “Florida House expected to vote Thursday on banning abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy” WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale, 12 Apr. 2023, https://wsvn.com/news/politics/florida-house-expected-to-vote-thursday-on-banning-abortions-after-6-weeks-of-pregnancy/

9. “Six things to know about what Florida’s six-week abortion ban means” Miami Herald, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/health-care/article274287215.html

10. “‘Unruly’ pro-abortion protesters removed from Florida House gallery after throwing debris at lawmakers” Fox News, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/unruly-pro-abortion-protesters-removed-florida-house-gallery-throwing-debris-lawmakers

11. “Florida legislature passes 6-week abortion ban” Axios, 13 Apr. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/04/13/florida-6-week-abortion-ban

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