Reproductive rights supporters responded with disgust Tuesday after right-wing lawmakers in Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature unveiled legislation that would prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
On the first day of the legislative session, state Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-78) and state Sen. Erin Grall (R-54) filed H.B. 7 and S.B. 300, companion bills to outlaw abortion care after six weeks, before many people know they are pregnant.
In addition to toughening the 15-week ban approved by Florida Republicans last year, the legislation aims to bar the use of public money to subsidize travel to other states for abortion care as well as the use of telehealth for abortion care, including mailing abortion pills. Medication abortion became the most common method in the U.S. for terminating a pregnancy in 2020.
The measure also seeks to prohibit "any person other than a physician from inducing a termination of pregnancy," language that criminalizes self-managed abortions. Anyone who "willfully performs or actively participates in a termination of pregnancy" in violation of these restrictions can be charged with a third-degree felony and put behind bars for up to five years.
The draconian plan threatens to cut off access to lifesaving reproductive healthcare for Floridians and, as HuffPostnoted, "a large swath of the Southeast." Many people in the region have long relied on Florida's relatively looser abortion restrictions, especially since several southern states enacted six-week abortion bans after the U.S. Supreme Court's reactionary majority struck downRoe v. Wade last summer―a decision experts say has opened the door to violations of international human rights law.
Florida's proposed six-week ban already has the support of far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said during his Tuesday State of the State address that "we are proud to be pro-family and we are proud to be pro-life."
DeSantis, a presumed 2024 GOP presidential candidate, told reporters after his speech that he would sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.
"We should open up access to healthcare for impacted communities; not control their decisions and force Floridians into giving birth."
Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani (47), a former Planned Parenthood patient and employee, said in a statement that "Florida Republicans have once again demonstrated a complete disregard for the women of our state and for our collective freedoms."
"As we've already seen in other states, a six-week ban is extreme, dangerous, and will force millions of people out of state to seek care and others will be forced into pregnancy," said Eskamani. "Most people do not even know they are pregnant until after six weeks, so this six-week ban might as well be a complete ban."
"Let me be clear: each of us should be free to live our lives with dignity and to make the decisions that are best for our lives, families, and communities," Eskamani continued. "No one wants Ron DeSantis in the exam room with us; personal medical decisions should be between me, my family, my doctor, and my faith—not politicians."
The lawmaker pointed out that "abortion bans impact all people, but especially those without means to travel to other states to seek care."
"These bans have the most profoundly negative effect on marginalized and vulnerable communities," Eskamani stressed. "We should open up access to healthcare for impacted communities; not control their decisions and force Floridians into giving birth."
As HuffPost reported, Florida's proposed six-week abortion ban "includes exceptions for rape and incest, but only up until 15 weeks of pregnancy―and in order to get one, the survivor 'must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation' to prove she was a victim of rape or incest."
"The proposed legislation also includes an exception for the life of the pregnant person if two physicians certify in writing that the woman will die if she continues the pregnancy," the outlet noted. However, "exceptions to abortion bans are often useless and are only included to make extreme restrictions seem more reasonable."
As Common Dreamsreported earlier on Tuesday, abortion rights advocates say that a new, first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging Texas' six-week ban demonstrates that "there is no such thing as an abortion exception."
"We will continue to fight like hell against this ban, and all new abortion bans."
State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-32) told HuffPost that "Florida Republicans have gone scorched earth with what is effectively an all-out abortion ban―with threats to criminalize women and their doctors."
"Today, women who suffer miscarriages are sent home to get sicker and risk death before they can receive medical care," she continued. "Today, child victims of incest are forced to flee the state as medical refugees to get care. And with this bill, it will only get worse."
Given the Florida GOP's supermajorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have little recourse to prevent the legislation from advancing, though Book saidthat "if it's a war they want, it's a war they will get."
"This issue bridges the partisan divide, and we will not go down as easily as they believe," she added. "On behalf of my daughter all women and girls in our state, that's a promise."
Eskamani echoed her colleague's message and called on people across the state to fight back against the GOP's life-threatening proposal.
"We are going to need every Floridian to wake up, show up, and demand that their lawmakers vote no on this bill," said the Orange County Democrat.
"Regardless of political affiliation, we know that Floridians time and time again have supported the right to privacy and have opposed extreme abortion bans," said Eskamani.
"We won't be truly free until everyone can make decisions about their own bodies, lives, reproductive care, and futures," she added, "which is why we will continue to fight like hell against this ban, and all new abortion bans."