On the first day of the 2023 session, GOP lawmakers file a 6-week abortion ban in Florida

By: - March 7, 2023 11:59 am

Andrew Shirvell of Florida Voice for the Unborn speaks at an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol Building May 24, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a 15-week abortion ban just last year. On Tuesday, lawmakers filed a bill to reduce the ban to six weeks, creating significant new abortion restrictions in the state.

State Sen. Erin Grall, who has been at the forefront of abortion restrictions in Florida, filed the Senate bill, SB 300, on the first day of the 2023 legislative session. That was the case last year as well, when a 15-week ban was filed the first day of the session.

In the House, the bill, HB 7, was sponsored by State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, who represents part of Lee County. A co-sponsor is Rep. Spencer Roach, of southwest Florida.

The bills are titled “Pregnancy and Parenting Support,” which doesn’t convey the depth and seriousness of a new more restrictive abortion ban in Florida. At the same time, anti-abortion activists can expect to be happy with the new restrictions, though they have wanted to eliminate abortions entirely. Keep in mind that the House and Senate would have to agree on the legislation and DeSantis would have to sign it into law.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre provided a statement about the newly-filed Florida legislation:

Florida’s proposed bill would ban abortion before many women know if they are pregnant, virtually eliminating a woman’s right to make health care decisions about her own body. Politicians like Governor DeSantis espouse ‘freedom for all,’ while directly attacking the freedom to make one’s own health care decisions. This proposal is wrong and out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Americans, including Floridians, who support a woman’s right to choose.

“This ban would prevent not just the nearly four 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.

“The President and Vice President believe women should be able to make health care decisions with their doctors and families – free from political interference. They are committed to protecting access to reproductive care, and continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law.”

DeSantis, during his State of the State address Tuesday, did not mention a new 6-week abortion ban, but he did say in his remarks: “We are proud to be pro-family and we are proud to be pro-life in the state of Florida.”

At the same time, the Republican governor has repeatedly been cautious about what he would want to say about further abortion restrictions.

During a news conference following his speech, the governor was asked whether he supported a six-week ban containing exceptions for rape and incest.

“I think those exceptions are sensible and, like I said, we do welcome pro-life legislation,” he said.

Later, a reporter asked why a six-week ban would be justified.

“I think the issue is less the week then that there is a detectable heartbeat,” DeSantis responded.

He noted that the 15-week abortion ban the Legislature approved last year is under review by the Florida Supreme Court, in a challenge by abortion clinics involving the privacy clause in the Florida Constitution.

“I haven’t seen what was filed but I think in the discussions that I have heard they [lawmakers] are having that they were recognizing that case is pending and that whatever they do this year would be basically only in effect if that case was resolved in a favorable way.”

The proposed legislation states that “A physician may not knowingly perform or induce a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 6 weeks unless one of the following conditions is met…” (The bill had eliminated the number “15” in the piece of the legislation, a reference to Florida’s 15-week ban.)

As to “following conditions” that could be met, the new language states:

  • The pregnancy has not progressed to the third trimester and two physicians certify in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality.
  • The pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and the gestational age of the fetus is not more than 15 weeks as determined by the physician. At the time the woman schedules or arrives for her appointment for a termination of pregnancy, she must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation proving that she is obtaining the termination of pregnancy because she is a victim of rape or incest. If the woman is a minor, the physician must report the incident of rape or incest to the central abuse hotline as required under s. 39.201. (The language in both Senate and House bills is nearly the same, except that HB 7 uses the term “documentation proving” and SB 300 uses “documentation providing evidence.”)

Another part of legislation relates to “in-person performance by physician required,” and the Senate and House clearly differs:

For HB 7 language: Only a physician may perform or induce a termination of pregnancy or dispense abortion-inducing drugs. A physician may not use telehealth … to provide an abortion, including, but not limited to, prescribing abortion-inducing drugs. A physician must be physically present in the same room as the woman when the termination of pregnancy is performed or when dispensing abortion-inducing drugs …

For SB 300 language: Only a physician may perform or induce a termination of pregnancy. A physician may not use telehealth … to perform an abortion, including, but not limited to, medical abortions. Any medications intended for use in a medical abortion must be dispensed in person by a physician and may not be dispensed through the United States Postal Service or by any other courier or shipping service.

In addition, language in both Senate and House bills state that: Any person, governmental entity, or educational institution may not expend state funds as defined in s. 215.31 in any manner for a person to travel to another state to receive services that are intended to support an abortion.

Also, under certain conditions, the legislation would take effect 30 days after various decisions or measures, such as the Florida Supreme Court holding that the right to privacy enshrined in the Florida Constitution does not include a right to abortion. Or, an amendment to the state Constitution providing that Article 1 in the document does not include a right to an abortion.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, who previously worked at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said the new bill filed Tuesday shows that Florida Republicans “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 …

“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. 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.”

Phoenix Deputy Editor Michael Moline and our Washington, D.C. bureau contributed to this report.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.