Florida legislature approves six-week abortion ban

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida legislature voted Thursday to pass a Republican bill that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, cutting off what has become a critical access point for abortion care in the South since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The measure was approved by the state Senate earlier in the month. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. Ron DeSantis (R), has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Florida’s current law allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, a time period in which the vast majority of abortions take place. The six-week ban — which includes exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies and “fatal fetal abnormalities” — would outlaw the procedure before many people know they’re pregnant.

Since the Supreme Court’s June decision, where abortion bans were enacted across the region, many South-based patients have traveled to Florida for an abortion. More than 82,000 people had abortions in Florida in 2022. That’s more than any other state. A 38 percent increase in the number of people who traveled from other states to Florida for abortions was seen.

These numbers are a driving force for tighter restrictions, Florida Republicans claim.

“I’m going to fight,” Rep. David Borrero (R), one of the bill’s sponsors, said on the House floor Thursday afternoon. “As many sessions as it takes, as many votes as it takes … until every single person from the moment of conception to the casket has constitutional rights.”

A six-week ban in Florida could cause severe strain to clinics in other states that allow abortion.

“If people from Florida are now going to be flooding into the Carolinas and Illinois … that is taking spots that Alabamians and Mississippians need right now,” said Robin Marty, director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center, a clinic that provided abortions before Roe It was overturned. “That’s a crisis that’s going to ripple all across the entire country.”

The bill will take effect 30 days after one of a few scenarios occurs — most likely, 30 days after the state Supreme Court issues a decision on the constitutionality of the 15-week ban that is already in effect. The decision is expected in the coming months.

Florida Democrats have argued fiercely against the legislation, staging several protests in the lead-up to the bill — including one that ended in several top Democrats being arrested.

“In the course of just two generations, we’ve seen our rights won and lost,” Florida Senate minority leader Lauren Book (D) said on the Senate floor in early April, hours before she was arrested at an abortion rights protest. “It’s up to us to get them back. No one is going to save us but ourselves.”

On Thursday morning, the Florida Capitol was witness to a larger than usual police presence. People in the rotunda shouted down to lawmakers as they entered the House chambers, shouting, “Shame! Shame!”

During debate, House Democrats introduced many amendments. One of these would have allowed for an exception to several pregnancy complications that were impacted by the ban on abortion. The amendment would have given doctors the authority to induce or perform abortions if a woman is suffering from pre-viable PPROM, which can be life-threatening and cause severe hemorhage.

Rep. Robin Bartleman (D), who proposed the amendment, discussed a story published in The Washington Post earlier this week, about two women who experienced pre-viable PPROM and were turned away from the hospital because of the state’s abortion ban, Anya Cook and Shanae-Smith Cunningham.

“If you know about Anya and Shanae who live in Broward county, you know that Anya had a much wanted pregnancy,” Bartleman said. When her water broke at 15 weeks, she added, “the hospital decided to send her home and she delivered the fetus in a toilet, alone. She lost so much blood.”

Rep. Jenna Persons – Mulicka (R), the sponsor of the six-week ban said that the medical exception included in the bill covered this type of situation.

“If anyone tells you differently, they are misinformed,” she said, before the amendment was defeated by a vote of 33-80.

This legislation provides $25 million annually in state funding for crisis pregnancy centres, which are organizations that help people avoid getting abortions.

Earlier this year, Book and other Democrats had hoped that Senate President Kathleen Passidomo — a moderate Republican lawyer from Naples — would prevent the state from moving towards a six-week ban. Passidomo appeared reluctant to implement a strict abortion ban. She initially said that Florida shouldn’t go any further with abortion until the state Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the 15 week ban. This decision is still pending.

But Passidomo came around to the legislation earlier this year, voicing her public support for the six-week ban soon after it was introduced in early March — a move that shocked both Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee.

“This is what happens when you have no backbone to stand up to the scary GOP guy running for president,” Book said in an interview with The Post.

Advocates for abortion rights say that Florida’s ban has been largely ignored by media coverage. This was due to the Texas judge’s decision on the abortion pill, which withdrew FDA approval. A temporary order was issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Late Wednesday: Mifepristone remains on the market. However, strict restrictions will be reimposed on the drug.

“All the blue states and coasts have focused on, ‘Oh god, what if we lose access to mifepristone,’” said Marty, the director at the Alabama clinic. “They’ve forgotten that the last safe place in the South is about to go down.”

As the debate progressed on Thursday morning, the House temporarily called a recess when protesters tossed small round stickers down from the public gallery and then gathered outside the room yelling “Hands off our bodies!” and “Stand up, fight back!” Nearly a dozen Democratic lawmakers joined the three dozen protesters in the lobby to chant and sing “Lean on Me,” a song that has become an anthem for abortion bill protesters in Florida.

After fifteen minutes, the recess ended. House Speaker Paul Renner said “I appreciate all the passionate debate,” but “inside the chamber, I treat it like a courtroom, and we will have decorum.”

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