Florida Republicans seek ban on abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy
He told reporters after his address that he would sign the abortion bill into law.
Republicans have supermajorities in the House and Senate, so Democrats have no ability to stop the legislation from going forward.
The abortion proposal is a clear signal that DeSantis will support hard-right conservative priorities ahead of his likely 2024 election bid. Florida, once a perennial swing state, has shifted Republican in recent years and the governor has capitalized on the GOP electoral successes by supporting legislation that cracks down on illegal immigration, bans Florida Medicaid from paying for gender-affirming care and limits how race and gender identity can be taught in schools.
The governor last year also supported the state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and, after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, said that Florida would expand “pro-life protections.”
The proposal drew widespread criticism from Democrats, including from White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre who said the proposal would affect millions of women, both in Florida and its neighboring states that have stricter limits but whose residents rely on Florida to access abortions.
“We know that these bands are already having a devastating impact on women’s health,” she said. “Politicians like Governor DeSantis … espouse quote, freedom for all, unquote, while directly attacking the freedom to make one’s own health care decisions. Their rhetoric doesn’t come without consequences here.”
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) unsuccessfully convinced House leaders last year to add exemptions for rape and incest victims to the 15-week ban. Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book (D-Plantation), who worked with Passidomo last year on the exemptions, said on Tuesday that incest victims are already fleeing the state for treatment and the 6-week bill will only make things worse for them.
“If it’s a war they want, it’s a war they will get,” Book wrote in a statement. “This issue bridges the partisan divide, and we will not go down as easily as they believe.”
State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-Fort Myers) and state Sen. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach), who filed legislation in their respective chambers, stated in their bills that the exemptions would apply to victims who have been pregnant for less than 15 weeks. They will require anyone seeking the exemptions to provide documentation, such as a court restraining order or police report, to prove they were victimized.
The lawmakers filed the bills on the first day of this year’s Legislative session after months of speculation that legislators would seek to further restrict abortion access. The 15-week ban that took effect in July is enforced but the state Supreme Court is currently weighing a legal challenge to it. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue the 15 week ban violates a state privacy clause that the Florida high court had previously cited to strike down abortion bans.
Republican legislative leaders had initially said any future bans would have to wait until the high court decides on the case.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) said the current proposal includes a trigger provision that will enact the 6-week ban if the high court strikes down the privacy clause. Renner brought up the state’s argument in the Supreme Court case that the privacy clause relates to informational and data privacy rights.
“This is going ahead and having the conversation on where we want to land in Florida,” Renner said. “That’s where we’ve landed.”
The proposed measure would place Florida with six other states that have already approved 6-week bans, including Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
The bill also provides up to $30 million for the Florida Department of Health to create a statewide parenting support network. The network would beef-up state-funded services already offered to pregnant people by expanding resources to those who gave birth within one year. The measure also prohibits doctors from using telehealth services to consult with patients about treatment with abortion medications.
The head the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates criticized the 6-week ban proposal, saying it would worsen the lives of parents statewide.
“This near total abortion ban has nothing to do with what is best for Floridians and everything to do with Ron DeSantis’ ambition to be president and what he thinks Republican primary voters want,” Alliance Director Laura Goodhue wrote in a statement.
Kelly Garrity contributed to this report.