Florida’s 6-week abortion ban signed into law, won’t go into effect until court decision

Ultrasound heartbeat Credit liseykina Shutterstock CNA liseykina / Shutterstock.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that would prohibit abortions after six weeks’ gestation, but the legislation will not go into effect until the Florida Supreme Court settles a lawsuit related to the state’s current 15-week gestation limit.

The bill, known as the Heartbeat Protection Act, passed the Senate 26-13 and the House 70-40. It received support from most of the Legislature’s Republicans with only a few dissenters and was opposed by Democratic leadership. The governor signed the bill shortly after it passed the House.

“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis, a Republican, said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for passing the Heartbeat Protection Act that expands pro-life protections and provides additional resources for young mothers and families.”

Even though the bill passed, the law cannot be enacted unless the Florida Supreme Court upholds the state’s current 15-week limit. Although the current Florida precedent recognizes a constitutional right to an abortion based on the state constitution’s right to privacy, Attorney General Ashley Moody argued before the Supreme Court that the precedent was based on the now-overturned Roe v. Wade justification. She has urged the court to overturn the previous Florida ruling and allow the lawmakers to regulate abortion as they choose.

To date, the Supreme Court has allowed the state to enforce the 15-week limit, which some supporters have seen as a sign that the court will uphold the law. If the court does rule in favor of the state, the six-week limit will go into effect 30 days after that ruling, according to a clause in the bill. If the court rules against the state, the six-week limit will not go into effect.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist who is now a pro-life activist and scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement that she wished “this kind of protection had been in place when I chose to have my abortion” because “it would have saved my child and saved me a lifetime of regret.”

“After performing hundreds of abortions, I know without hesitation that abortion after six weeks stops a beating heart,” Aultman said. “The cardiovascular system is the first organ system to function, and at this stage of development, the heart beats around 110 beats per minute. Research has shown that if a heartbeat is detected, a baby has more than a 90% chance of surviving to birth.”

The bill includes an exception whenever the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy. If fatal fetal abnormalities are detected, an abortion would be allowed up to the end of the second trimester. In the case of rape, incest, or human trafficking, those abortions would be allowed up to 15 weeks and subject to reporting requirements.

A physician or anyone who actively participates in providing an illegal abortion could be charged with a third-degree felony, which could land the person up to five years behind bars. If the mother dies during an illegal abortion, the penalty is raised to a second-degree felony, which can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.

The legislation also includes about $25 million in funding for parents and families to help with pregnancy and raising young children. This includes counseling or mentoring services and assistance with clothing, formula, diapers, cribs, and other necessities.

“This historic day marks an enormous victory in the battle for human rights,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

“No longer will Florida account for 10% of abortions in the nation or be known as an abortion destination,” Dannenfelser added. “More moms who need financial and emotional support will get the help they need during pregnancy and after their child is born. Most of all, tens of thousands of precious boys and girls will live and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, bless the lives of others, and enhance Florida’s communities.”

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