Reproductive rights defenders decried the signing of a near-total abortion ban in Florida overnight by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a likely presidential candidate for the GOP in 2024.
Republican state lawmakers, who control both legislative chambers in the state, sent S.B. 300 to DeSantis' desk in order to bar the medical procedure after just six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. Wasting no time, the governor signed the bill just before midnight.
The bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives by a 70-40 vote on Thursday afternoon, largely along party lines, after approval by the GOP-controlled Senate earlier this month. While the law will not go into effect immediately, the legislation is designed to replace an existing 2022 Florida law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with a six-week ban containing exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking; in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities; or to save the pregnant person's life.
Jezebelreports Republican state lawmakers rejected an amendment to include an exception for a life-threatening condition that recently caused a woman to miscarry in a hair salon and nearly bleed to death. The woman, Anya Cook, is Black; this week is Black Maternal Health Week.
DeSantis, an ally of former President Donald Trump widely expected to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, promised he would sign the six-week ban into law.
"I've said…we're for pro-life," the governor said last month. "I urged the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign."
S.B. 300 is written so that it will become law if the Florida Supreme Court affirms the 15-week ban. The court is expected to hear a case involving that ban in the coming months.
Responding to Thursday's vote in the state House, Florida Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-32) tweeted that "Florida Republicans have now passed a dangerous abortion ban through both the House and the Senate—choosing to disregard the pleas of women and the doctors entrusted with their care, including two mothers in my own district forced to the brink of death following miscarriages due to the state's current restrictive laws."
"Now, things will get much worse," she added. "Women have been stripped of their rights and access to lifesaving healthcare. Women will undoubtedly die. This is not freedom."
Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) took to the legislature floor in pre-vote debate Thursday to propose an amendment to rename S.B. 300, officially the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Act.
"Members," she said, "this amendment renames the bill to the Forced Pregnancy Act, which is basically what it does."
Abortion rights defenders—some of whom were joined by Democratic Florida lawmakers in an impromptu singing of "Lean on Me" in the State Capitol after Thursday's vote—also warned that the six-week ban poses life-and-death risks to Floridians.
"Across the country, pregnant people are being pushed to the brink of death because they can't get an abortion. Yet Florida lawmakers have rushed this dangerous ban through the legislature with no concern for their citizens and how it will harm them," Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
"This bill threatens to end abortion almost entirely amid a growing public health crisis," she continued. "If this ban takes effect, Floridians would be stranded in a vast abortion desert and forced to travel over 1,000 miles to get an abortion. No one should have to face that, and many people will not be able to make that journey."
"Across the country, pregnant people are being pushed to the brink of death because they can't get an abortion."
Common Dreamspreviously reported the ordeal of Nancy Davis, a Louisiana woman forced to carry a fetus with a fatal skull deformity inside her body for six months and then make a 2,500-mile round trip to New York in order to obtain an abortion.
"We also must remember," Smith added, "that Mifepristone is under attack, and if that pill is taken off the market, it will become even harder to get an abortion before six weeks."
Although a panel of the right-wing 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal on Thursday temporarily blocked a Texas federal judge's invalidation of the government's approval of mifepristone—one of two drugs typically taken in tandem to induce medical abortion—reproductive rights campaigners warned that the ruling still poses a grave threat.
Earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) contended that if the U.S. Supreme Court hears the Texas case and the court's right-wing supermajority upholds the ruling, "it would essentially institute a national abortion ban."
Kara Gross, the ACLU of Florida's legislative director and senior policy counsel, said that "in a state that prides itself on being free, this is an unprecedented and unacceptable level of government overreach and intrusion."
"This near-total abortion ban will effectively eliminate legal abortion care in Florida," Gross continued. "It will force hundreds of thousands of pregnant people to have to travel out of state to seek the care they need. Others will be forced to remain pregnant against their will and endure labor and delivery and all of the significant medical risks associated with pregnancy and birth. "
"Floridians deserve better from their elected leaders who are responsible for representing their voices and protecting their freedoms," she asserted. "The government should never be able to force anyone to carry a pregnancy against their will. Every Floridian deserves access to health care and the right to make personal decisions about their own lives, families, and futures."
NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said in a statement that "this ban is dangerous, plain and simple. It will not only cut off abortion access for Floridians but the countless people who have sought care there as extremists in their own states enforce bans."
"Ron DeSantis talks about the 'Free State of Florida,' but it's clear that if he signs this bill as he has signaled he will, he'll be selling out our freedoms for his own personal ambition, stooping to new lows to win the 2024 GOP primary," Timmaraju added. "He should have listened in November when voters made it clear they don't support abortion bans—he can count on hearing it again when he's on the ballot next."