Public Health

Florida state lawmakers’ bill would ban abortion after six weeks

A woman who chose to remain anonymous, talks to Doctor Audrey (R) before recieving an abortion at a Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida, on July 14, 2022.

Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images

Florida state lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks, when many women don’t know they are pregnant, with limited exceptions for medical emergencies and cases of rape and incest.

The legislation, introduced in Florida’s House and Senate, would make performing an abortion after six weeks a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

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The legislation allows abortion in cases of rape and incest, but only up to the 15th week of pregnancy as determined by a physician. The woman is required to provide evidence that she is the victim of rape or incest at the appointment where she will have the abortion by providing a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical report or other court documentation.

Abortion is also allowed in severe medical emergencies, with the condition that two physicians certify in writing that the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or she faces a serious risk of substantial impairment to a bodily function. In instances where a second doctor is not available for consultation, one physician can make that call.

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The legislation also allows abortion up to the third trimester in cases where the fetus has a fatal abnormality, but two physicians must certify that fact.

The White House condemned the proposed abortion ban, saying it would jeopardize access not just in Florida but across the South where many states already have severe restrictions on abortion or outright bans. Florida law currently allows abortion up to the 15th week of pregnancy.

“This ban would not prevent just the nearly 4 million Florida women of reproductive age from accessing abortion care after six weeks, but would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in states across the South with abortion bans and would no longer be able to rely on Florida as an option to access care,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Although the Florida legislation provides an exception for medical emergencies, women in states such as Texas with near total bans have said they were denied abortions despite facing dangerous pregnancy complications. Five women have south Texas and asked a state court to clarify the scope of the medical emergency exception.

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Republicans introduced the bill into the Florida legislature on the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his annual State of the State address. The governor did not mention the legislation during his address, but said “we are proud to be pro-life in the state of Florida.”

The legislation introduced Tuesday also requires the abortion pill, mifepristone, to be dispensed by a physician to the patient during an in-person appointment. The legislation bans abortion pills from being sent by mail in the state through the US Postal Service or any other carrier.

DeSantis signed legislation in April 2022 that banned abortion after 15 weeks. That law went into effect in July, days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended 50 years of federal protection of abortion rights under the US Constitution.

Florida previously allowed abortion until the 24th week of pregnancy.

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