In a release from the Governor’s office late Thursday night, it was announced that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would ban abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy in the state of Florida. The bill also enforces limitations on the ability of the medical abortion drug mifepristone, banning doctors from prescribing the pill via telehealth. This means patients will only be able to obtain mifepristone from a physician. The bill does create exemptions for incest, sexual assault, and/or human trafficking, stating that abortion will be granted in these cases, given that proper documentation (such as a police report or restraining order) is obtained. Many are calling for federal intervention to stop the legislature, as it will have a drastic effect on reproductive rights not only in the state of Florida, but potentially for the surrounding states of Florida as well.
The bill can not be imposed as law until the state of Florida resolves its legal battles regarding their current reproductive restrictions. Last year, DeSantis signed House Bill 5, which banned abortions in the state of Florida after a period of 15 weeks. The case went to the Supreme Court, and they chose to uphold the ban. Many Floridians noted that this was an infringement on their constitutional rights, and Planned Parenthood has sued the Florida legislature in state court as an attempt to overturn the law, which still remains in effect. This means that Florida’s Supreme Court will have to deny all the legal challenges on DeSantis’ previously passed House Bill 5 before enacting this new, more extreme law.
If passed, however, it would make Florida one of the most restrictive states for abortion access in the country. Unfortunately, that’s a very likely possibility considering the scope of DeSantis’ Republican influence. Florida has undergone massive changes to their political climate in recent years as a result of DeSantis’ leadership. He’s appointed 4 out of the 6 people on Florida’s Supreme Court, and is set to appoint a fifth. Not only that, but he’s got a hold on the Senate as well. When Chancellor Marshall Criser retired in 2022, he was replaced by Ray Rodrigues, one of DeSantis’ allies. Politico states, “DeSantis is using his political sway to recruit Republican Senate candidates to run who don’t have the backing of GOP Senate leadership. The goal is to build a coalition of GOP senators with more political loyalty to him than their own Senate Republican leadership, which has had an uneasy relationship with DeSantis over the past several months.” He’s also considering candidacy in the 2024 Presidential Election. Because of his self-serving nepotism, strict pro-life stances, and authoritarian behavior, a DeSantis presidency could potentially spell the end of reproductive rights in America. Esquire even claimed that DeSantis “provides a safe harbor for oppression in Florida [by exporting] bad policy across the country.”
The new bill will also greatly impact those in nearby states like Alabama, where strict anti-abortion legislation is already in place. Out of all the states in the region, Florida currently has the most lenient policies on pregnancy termination. Many people residing in neighboring states travel to Florida in order to obtain a procedure that would otherwise be unavailable to them locally. By the time you make the trip, you could be out of the legal gestation window, and many Republican state officials are working hard to make sure that out-of-state abortions become illegal.
The main argument against this new legislation is that most individuals don’t realize that they’re pregnant until after 6 weeks, so unless you have proper documentation of a fetal abnormality, restraining order, or an immediate danger to the mother’s life, you might be under a legal obligation to carry the baby to term. Even then, an abortion isn’t always granted, which was the case for several women who successfully sued the state of Texas after they were denied the option to terminate their pregnancy, despite having documented medical reasons that urged them to do so.
This has been brewing for some time. It was only a year ago that Roe v Wade was overturned, and it seems like every day since, there’s been a bombardment of anti-abortion legislation. And this isn’t the first time that DeSantis is leading the charge.
The fight for abortion rights in a post-Roe America is only getting more and more dire. With new legislation being passed almost every day, we have to take immediate action against the infringement on our rights. Write to your local representatives, join protests, or start your own grassroots activist movement in an effort to preserve our reproductive rights, before we don’t have any left.
Top Photo by Ethan Gregory Dodge on Unsplash