Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – who is preparing for an expected presidential run – has signed a contentious bill into law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Florida currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks.
The policy – known as the Heartbeat Protection Act – would have wider implications for abortion access throughout the South with the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court in June last year, leaving decisions about abortion access to individual states.
Democrats and abortion-rights groups say Florida’s proposal would ban almost all abortions because in most cases, women do not realize they’re pregnant at six weeks.
Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, while Georgia, similar to Florida, forbids the procedure after cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks.
The Florida bill contains some exceptions, including saving the woman’s life. Abortions for pregnancies involving rape or incest would be allowed until 15 weeks of pregnancy, provided a woman has documentation such as a restraining order or police report. Governor DeSantis has called the rape and incest provisions sensible.
Moreover, drugs used in medication-induced abortions — which make up the majority of those provided nationally — could be dispensed only in person or by a physician under the Florida bill. Separately, nationwide access to the abortion pill mifepristone is being challenged in court.
Florida’s six-week ban would take effect only after the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge before the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.