Updated Apr 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis signs Florida's 6-week abortion ban into law

Abortion rights activists hold signs at a protest in support of abortion access in July 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo: John Parra/Getty Images for MoveOn

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation on a six-week abortion ban into law on Thursday night, becoming the latest Southern state looking to bar access after the bill passed in the state legislature earlier in the day.

Why it matters: Florida was considered a refuge for people seeking abortions in the South, particularly since nearby states — Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi — have bans in place that have forced abortion clinics to close.

A screenshot of a photo tweet of Gov Ron DeSantis signing Florida's new 6-week abortion ban with the comment, "Signed the Heartbeat Protection Act, which expands pro-life protections and devotes resources to help young mothers and families."
Photo: Ron DeSantis/Twitter

The big picture: Florida saw one of the largest increases in total number of abortions in the six months after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision ended the constitutional right to abortion, a survey released Monday from the Society of Family Planning revealed.

  • Compared to the baseline level of abortions in the months prior to the decision, Florida saw 7,190 more abortions in the months following the Dobbs ruling, the survey noted.

Details: SB 300 prohibits health providers from "knowingly performing or inducing" an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.

  • Abortions can only be performed past that point until 15 weeks to save a pregnant person's life, to "avert a serious risk" to the patient's health, if there is a "fatal fetal abnormality," and in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking.
  • The bill also says that state funds cannot be used to help a person get an abortion out of state, and states that abortion pills can only be accessed in person.
  • The Florida Senate passed the bill last week.

Of note: If enacted, the six-week ban would not take effect until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the legality of the state's current 15-week ban, which is now being challenged.

  • 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, per the Center for Reproductive Rights.

State of play: Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) told Axios that the consequences of the ban will be "absolutely devastating and dangerous."

  • The uncertain timeline of the implementation of the bill will also lead to "chaos and uncertainty and trauma" for patients and doctors, she added.
  • Just as Florida has become a haven for abortion access in the southeast, the ban will spur a "huge shift of patient care to other states," Eskamani said.

The ban's implementation will "create a public health crisis, not just for Floridians, but for the entire southeast," Annie Filkowski, policy director for Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, told Axios, adding that it would also spark an economic crisis.

  • Abortion providers have already begun leaving the state and the ban's implementation would further increase this phenomenon, Filkowski said.
  • The abortion exceptions allowed by the ban are "unworkable," Filkowski added, citing the burden of proof required of patients.

Editor's note: This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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