Florida's 6-Week Abortion Ban Will Be Widely Felt

The state had served those in other Southern states with strict abortion laws
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2024 7:21 AM CDT
Florida's 6-Week Abortion Ban Will Be Widely Felt
Abortion rights advocates hold a rally in support of the "Yes On 4" campaign in downtown Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, April 13, 2024, ahead of the November ballot initiative, when Florida voters will decide on whether to allow the right to an abortion in Florida.   (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

As of Wednesday, a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant, took effect in Florida. As the Washington Post reports, the state went "from one with the fewest restrictions for the procedure in the South" to one where abortion is "all but banned." Here's what to know:

  • The law: The new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year and confirmed by the Florida Supreme Court in April replaces a 15-week ban in effect since July 2022.
  • Exemptions: It includes exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking but only up to 15 weeks of pregnancy and only with supporting documents from doctors or police, per the Post. There are also exemptions for fatal fetal anomalies before the third trimester, and for cases where the woman's life is at risk or she faces a "substantial and irreversible" physical impairment.

  • Dueling opinions: DeSantis calls it "a noble effort," while Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a former senior director at Planned Parenthood, says it's "by far one of the cruelest abortion bans in the country," per the Post. "Fewer than 10% of our patients now are before six weeks," Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Planned Parenthood, tells the Tallahassee Democrat.
  • The impact: It will be big. "Florida accounts for about 1 in 12 abortions in the US," per Axios. Florida had the fourth-highest number of abortions last year with more than 84,000, per the Post and Democrat. About 8,000 traveled from other states, per NPR.
  • What now?: To receive an abortion after six weeks, a person on Florida's southernmost tip would need to drive 14 hours to Charlotte, North Carolina, where abortion is permitted up to 12 weeks, per the Post. However, North Carolina "has a 72-hour mandatory waiting period with in-person requirements, so it isn't always a viable alternative," per NPR. Virginia, where abortion is legal until around 25 weeks of pregnancy, could be another destination.

  • Alternatives: Advocates have been sharing information about how to access abortion pills by mail despite Florida's ban on using telemedicine for abortions. But "we're estimating about 90% of our callers are going to need to go out-of-state," which many cannot afford, an official with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund tells NPR.
  • Abortion on the ballot: This could all change with a referendum in November. If 60% of voters approve Amendment 4 to the state constitution, allowing abortions until about 24 weeks "or when necessary to protect the patient's health," it would take effect in January. Democrats predict a favorable vote, though they make up just 32% of voters in the state. Similar amendments were passed in the red states of Kansas and Ohio, but the vote fell short of 60% in both cases, per MSNBC.
  • Surge in demand: Leading up to Wednesday, many Florida clinics extended their hours to accomodate patients, per NPR. A clinic in Jacksonville, which usually sees 10 to 15 patients a day, saw 70 to 80 walk through its doors, per the Post.
(More Florida stories.)

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