May 1, 2024 - Health

Without Florida safe haven, abortion seekers stare down a new reality

Illustration of a giant pencil drawing a line in front of a lone woman looking down at the line.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Florida's six-week abortion ban goes into effect Wednesday, but its impact will sweep far beyond the Sunshine State.

Why it matters: Florida's new abortion law — one of the strictest limits in the nation — means its role as a post-Roe refuge for people seeking care in the U.S. South will dramatically change.

  • People from across the South who had relied on it for access to care will now need to travel even further — in some cases to North Carolina or Virginia, where providers have been preparing for an influx of patients.
  • Florida accounts for about 1 in 12 abortions in the U.S. and has seen a steady increase since Roe was overturned in 2022.

State of play: Out-of-state travel for abortions since the Dobbs ruling surged in states like Florida and Illinois as long-standing federal protections for the procedure were removed and stricter bans in neighboring states were implemented.

  • North Carolina, which allows access up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, will now be the closest place Floridians can get an abortion after six weeks' gestation.
  • Virginia, meanwhile, is the only state that prohibits abortions starting in the pregnancy's third trimester, which starts at around 25 weeks, per the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

By the numbers: More than 84,000 abortions were performed in the state last year, according to state data. That's up from more than 82,000 in 2022, per data from the Agency for Health Care Administration.

What we're watching: Although Florida's six-week ban will take effect now, voters will have a chance in November to enshrine abortion access until fetal viability — around 24–28 weeks of pregnancy — in the state constitution.

  • But even if the measures passes, protections won't be restored until at least 2025.

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