Florida near-total abortion ban becomes law

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the six-week ban into law at nearly 11 p.m. Thursday
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 4:47 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After a day of outraged opposition and spiritual celebration across the capital city and state, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the state’s strictest abortion ban in recent history.

Surrounded by supporters in his office at nearly 11 p.m. Thursday, the governor signed into law a ban on abortions after six weeks.

“Governor DeSantis has enacted historic measures to defend the dignity of human life and transform Florida into a pro-family state,” his office said in a statement.

The move came after the House passed the Heartbeat Protection Act earlier that day. The Republican-majority Florida House voted 70-40 Thursday afternoon following nearly eight hours of discussion and impassioned debate.

The Republican-sponsored measure intensifies Florida’s current 15-week ban, passed last year, which is being contended in the state’s Supreme Court. The new ban offers few exceptions. Some language in the bill offers exceptions for up to 15 weeks in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. However, the law will also require pregnant people to provide evidence in those cases.

The fate of the six week ban hangs on the decision for the 15-week ban.

After 15 weeks, the mother’s life must be at serious risk and she must get approval from two doctors to terminate the pregnancy.

After protesters in the gallery through handfuls of stickers down at legislators, the gallery was cleared and the vote took place behind closed doors. Lawmakers voted mostly down party lines. However, seven Republicans voted against the bill.

Proponents of the ban say it offers hope to people who believe life begins at conception.

“Today, we expand the protection of our precious unborn babies and provide care and support for their mothers,” said Lynda Bell, president of the anti-abortion group Florida Right to Life.

But opponents adamantly say it will lead to more deaths and unsafe pregnancies for women and other pregnant people, and that people of color will disproportionately feel those effects.

Democrats opposed to the bill proposed nearly 50 amendments to the ban Thursday. All failed.

Florida Rep. Allison Tant, whose district includes parts of the Big Bend, pleaded with her colleagues to vote down the bill Thursday ahead of the vote, saying she personally knew the risks of limiting abortion access.

Before Tant was born, her mother experienced complications with a previous pregnancy and nearly died. She told the gallery how the doctors asked her father to make a nearly impossible decision:

The crisis occurred in a rural area of North Carolina where there was only one physician, she said. But Tant argued that if her parents faced the requirements this bill entails, including requiring a doctor to write a letter and obtain a second doctor’s approval before performing the abortion, her mother to die.

“People across the state, and particularly the women in my rural counties, are going to face the same consequence that my mother could have faced, which was death,” she said.

Waves of protests have riled the capital city and state for weeks as demonstrators urged legislators not to pass the law.

Last week, Florida Democrats Chairwoman Nikki Fried and Florida Sen. Lauren Book were arrested with nine others in Tallahassee while they protested SB 300 in front of City Hall.

Dozens of activists in a group called Occupy Tally have camped outside the Leon County Courthouse, which is across from the capitol, this week in opposition to the ban as well. Fried, central-Florida Rep. Ana Eskamani, and other officials from the Big Bend and across the state gathered there to speak Wednesday.

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