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Florida Passes Controversial Six-Week Abortion Ban Amid Growing Debate on Women's Rights

Advocates and Opponents Speak Out as Florida Joins States Limiting Access to Abortion

By PinkeePublished about a year ago 5 min read

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Florida's Republican-led Legislature recently approved a measure that would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The bill, known as SB 300, has been passed by both the state Senate and the House of Representatives, with the latter voting 70-40 in favor of the proposal. Although the bill includes exceptions for rape and incest up until 15 weeks, it has been met with opposition from Democrats and other advocacy groups who argue that it infringes on women's rights and access to healthcare.

The passage of the bill was preceded by a contentious process that saw protests and outbursts from opponents of the legislation. During the state House's marathon floor hearing, Democratic lawmakers strongly opposed the proposal but were outvoted by Republican supermajorities in both chambers. GOP House Speaker Paul Renner had to close the public viewing galleries after protesters threw paper onto the House floor.

Despite Governor Ron DeSantis expressing support for the bill and signaling that he will sign it into law, its passage puts him in a difficult political position. DeSantis is considering a presidential bid in 2024, and most public polling indicates that a six-week abortion ban is unpopular among both political parties. However, rejecting or vetoing the bill could also hurt his chances of securing the Republican presidential nomination.

In addition to the abortion ban, the bill includes $25 million to expand Florida Pregnancy Care Network Inc., a statewide network of nonprofits that provide pregnancy support services. The proposal's new exceptions for rape and incest were added at the request of Republican state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and were agreed to by other Republicans. However, the measure does not alter the current exceptions for the life and health of the mother up until 15 weeks that are in current law.

The bill has faced protests and criticism since it was introduced on March 7, just before DeSantis's State of the State address on the opening day of the 2023 legislative session. During a state Senate hearing, Passidomo also had to clear the public gallery overlooking her chamber after opponents of the bill caused disruptions. The bill's opponents have held multiday protests in front of a courthouse across the street from the Capitol leading up to the House vote.

Although the passage of the six-week abortion ban is a significant victory for Republicans in Florida, the measure is likely to face legal challenges from groups that advocate for women's reproductive rights. The future of the bill and its impact on women's healthcare in the state remains to be seen.

After a seven-hour floor debate, Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature has passed a bill to ban most abortions after six weeks, sending the legislation to Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature. The legislation passed in the state House in a 70-40 vote along party lines after the state Senate passed the bill on April 3. Although Democrats opposed the bill, they were vastly outnumbered by Republican supermajorities in both chambers. The legislation, SB 300, bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest, up until 15 weeks. It also includes $25 million to expand Florida Pregnancy Care Network Inc., a statewide network of nonprofits that offer pregnancy support services.

The bill has been controversial since it was filed on March 7, shortly before Governor DeSantis gave his State of the State address on the opening day of the 2023 legislative session. The proposal has been the subject of protests and outbursts from opponents of the bill, leading to the public viewing galleries being closed during the House vote after protesters threw what appeared to be paper on the House floor.

During the floor debate, many of the arguments from the bill’s three previous committee stops were reiterated. Republican state Rep. Chase Tramont said, “There is nothing I am saying that will change the hearts and minds of my friends on the other side of the aisle…This is about holding up the flagship commitment I made … which is to give voice to the voiceless.”

Democrats argued that the proposal further infringes on a person’s right to choose and will have negative impacts on their health care. “The right to bodily autonomy is an innate right,” said Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman. “My body is mine. We do not want unclear laws and muddy waters.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, women from surrounding states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama have been going to Florida to get abortions. Women seeking abortions in Florida from out-of-state increased from 3,988 in 2020 to 6,708 in 2022, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Overall, the number of abortions in the state grew from 74,868 to 82,192 over that same time frame.

Governor DeSantis has signaled support for the legislation, but the six-week abortion ban is unpopular among both political parties, according to most public polling. DeSantis is considering a 2024 bid for president, and vetoing or opposing legislation that would expand abortion restrictions risks running against a key tenant of the GOP platform. However, entering a Republican presidential primary after signing a six-week abortion ban into law may also prove challenging for the governor.According to Shelly Tien, a doctor at Planned Parenthood Southeast, patients come from all over the country to Florida to access abortion services, particularly those living in or near poverty. However, she rejected the notion that Florida is an "abortion haven," citing annual legislation that has eroded access. The six-week abortion ban, which has just been passed, will be on hold until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the 15-week abortion ban signed into law by DeSantis in 2022. This bill has been challenged in court by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a group of abortion providers who argue that privacy provisions in the state constitution protect the right to an abortion. Florida was one of several Republican-led states to pass a 15-week abortion ban in 2022 in anticipation of a possible Supreme Court ruling. Although DeSantis signed the 15-week ban into law, he has not been the face of the legislative effort, which has been led largely by state Sen. Erin Grall, the Republican sponsor of both the six- and 15-week bans. Recent polling suggests that the six-week abortion ban is unpopular among Florida residents of both political parties, with 75% of respondents in a University of North Florida poll saying they somewhat or strongly opposed the ban, including 61% of Republicans. The same poll showed DeSantis leading former President Donald Trump among registered Republicans in a hypothetical 2024 presidential matchup, with no other candidate getting out of single digits.



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