On Thursday, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a move supported by Governor Ron DeSantis as he prepares for an anticipated presidential bid. The new policy would replace Florida's current ban on abortions after 15 weeks and, if signed into law by DeSantis, could give him a significant political victory among Republican primary voters. The bill includes exceptions for saving the woman's life and abortion in cases of sexual assault or incest, but only until 15 weeks of pregnancy with accompanying documentation such as a restraining order or police report. The ban would take effect if Florida's ongoing legal challenge to its 15-week ban is upheld by the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court.
Proponents of the bill, such as Republican Representative Jenna Persons-Mulicka, argue that it provides an opportunity to lead the national debate on protecting life and giving children opportunities to find their purpose. However, Democrats and abortion-rights groups criticize the bill as extreme, noting that many women do not realize they are pregnant until after six weeks. They also argue that the policy would have wider implications for abortion access in the South after the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade and left abortion decisions to states.
The bill also contains provisions requiring that medication-induced abortions be dispensed in-person or by a physician, a move that could restrict access to the majority of abortions provided nationally. Separately, nationwide access to the abortion pill mifepristone is being challenged in court.
While abortion bans are popular among some religious conservatives, the issue has motivated many others to vote for Democrats in recent elections centered on abortion access. Republicans have suffered defeats in states such as Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Democrats in Florida, without power at any level of state government, have mainly used stall tactics and protests to oppose the bill, which passed both chambers largely along party lines. A Democratic senator and chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party were arrested and charged with trespassing during a protest in Tallahassee against the six-week ban.