(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Florida Republicans filed legislation to impose a six-week abortion ban on Tuesday, during the first moments of the state Legislature’s 2023 session — a bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would sign should it be sent to his desk.
“We’re for pro-life. I urge the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign,” DeSantis said during a February briefing when asked if he would approve a so-called heartbeat bill that would ban abortions after six weeks.
The state currently prohibits almost all abortions after 15 weeks, restrictions that were put in place in July as the state appealed after a judge’s ruling that the law violated the state’s constitution.
The new bill would prohibit “physicians from knowingly performing or inducing a termination of pregnancy after the gestational age of the fetus is determined to be more than 6 weeks, rather than 15 weeks,” according to its text, with exceptions for rape and incest or if needed to save the life of the mother — under specific conditions.
For example, two doctors, if available, would have to certify in writing that an abortion is needed to prevent the pregnant woman’s death or “avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”
In the case of a fatal fetal abnormality as attested to two by two physicians, the pregnancy could not be in the third trimester.
For victims of rape and incest, the pregnancy can’t be further than 15 weeks along and the woman has to provide a police report, restraining order, court order or other such documentation.
A six-week abortion ban would bar the procedure before many people identify their pregnancies. Pregnancies are counted based on the first day of a person’s last menstrual period, so by the time they miss their next period and take a test, they can already be four weeks in. And people with irregular cycles, or those uncertain of their cycle dates, might not recognize a missed period that quickly — taking them to six weeks or beyond before they know they’re pregnant.
The bill also prohibits any party other than a physician from inducing a termination of pregnancy, requires that medications intended for use in an abortion be dispensed in person by a physician and prohibits the dispensing of such medication through the U.S. Postal Service or any other courier or shipping service.
The proposal was introduced on the first day of the state’s 60-day legislative session by freshman state Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican who, when she was in the House last session, introduced Florida’s current 15-week ban. State Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka on Tuesday also filed a six-week abortion ban in her chamber.
“I believe that we have a unique opportunity in the fact that the Supreme Court is considering 15 weeks right now, and this would allow Florida to save as many babies as possible as soon as possible after that decision is made,” Grall said during a hearing in January 2022.
The White House quickly responded to the legislation on Tuesday, saying it would have a “devastating impact on women’s health.”
“Republican state legislators in Florida proposed today a bill that would ban abortion before many women know if they are even pregnant, virtually eliminating a woman’s right to make health care decisions about her own body,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing on Tuesday.
She said that the ban would also impact women in southern states who rely on Florida as an “option to access care.”
“Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, the president and the vice president believe women should be able to make health care decisions with their own doctors and families, free from political interference. Period,” Jean-Pierre said. “They are committed to protecting access to reproductive care and continuing to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade [the overruled Supreme Court abortion decision].”
The Florida bill was filed Tuesday just ahead of DeSantis’ State of the State address, though he did not refer to or comment on it during his speech.
The rising-star Republican who has visited various parts of the country — including Iowa, the first presidential nominating state, this week — is expected to energize the state’s GOP majority this session with conservative policy even as he’s quelled any discussion about his own White House ambitions.
ABC News’ Hannah Demissie, Alexandra Hutzler and Jay O’Brien contributed to this report.
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