Florida is, in some methods, an oasis of reproductive care within the South. It permits abortions as much as 24 weeks, the restrict outlined within the 1973 Supreme Courtroom choice Roe v. Wade. For a whole bunch of miles, different states have rather more restrictive insurance policies — in the event you headed west from Florida, you’d should go throughout the deep South and Texas to New Mexico to discover a related stage of reproductive care and accessibility.
However that would quickly change. Florida Republicans not too long ago proposed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. The state legislature is fast-tracking the measure, which cleared its second hurdle on Thursday afternoon when a Home subcommittee gave the invoice the go-ahead on a party-line vote. And the measure is more likely to develop into legislation: The legislature has a GOP majority in each chambers, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signaled help for a 15-week ban.
If the plan works, it will be devastating for individuals in Florida — who wouldn’t solely discover it extraordinarily troublesome to acquire abortions in the event that they don’t instantly uncover they’re pregnant, however who would additionally should journey lengthy distances to discover a state the place they might obtain care. And the individuals within the South who now depend on Florida for abortion care would lose another possibility.
If the invoice does go, it can face an instantaneous courtroom problem. However the anti-choice motion and its allies in Florida authorities have a plan. The laws is modeled straight after the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi that was debated in entrance of the Supreme Courtroom final month in Dobbs v. Jackson Ladies’s Well being Group. The Mississippi legislation threatens to maneuver the federal gestational restrict allowed in Roe from 24 weeks to fifteen weeks. Mississippi has additionally requested the conservative Supreme Courtroom majority to overturn Roe altogether. Though the choice within the case is just not anticipated till June, many consultants and advocates consider that Roe will both be gutted or overturned.
The Florida ban would go into impact on July 1, 2022, seemingly weeks and even days after the Supreme Courtroom guidelines in that case.
The companion measures, S.B. 146 and H.B. 5, had been launched within the Florida state legislature earlier this month. The invoice, which was quietly tucked inside laws to revise the state’s Tobacco Training and Use Prevention program, solely makes exceptions for instances the place the pregnant particular person’s life is in danger or the fetus has a deadly abnormality.
“We’re going to be combating it, however, I’ve to say, the legislature in Florida is Republican-majority. They’ve the votes to get it handed,” Florida state Sen. Lori Berman (D) mentioned on a press name final week.
Florida and Texas successfully function bookends to a giant portion of the South. Texas already has a draconian six-week abortion ban that deputizes personal residents to implement it, inflicting many Texans and others within the area to flee east. However most states east of Texas are hostile to abortion, with little to no entry to care. Oklahoma solely has 4 abortion clinics, in addition to quite a few restrictions — together with a proposed Texas-style ban at present shifting by way of the state legislature. Alabama and Arkansas additionally not too long ago launched a Texas copycat abortion ban, and an anti-choice group has named the latter the “most pro-life state” two years in a row. Mississippi solely has one clinic left within the state and is completely happy to be the principle check case in overturning Roe. Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina even have many abortion restrictions on the books that make it troublesome to acquire care.
“What would a girl do in Florida if she couldn’t get an abortion right here?” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) instructed HuffPost on the decision final week. “Is she going to get it in Alabama? I doubt it. Is she going to go get it in Georgia? Unlikely. Is she going to should then drive? The place, although? The place is the closest state she must drive or fly to? There may be nowhere to go.”
Floridians in search of abortion care may journey a couple of states north, however, as Frankel identified, that turns into pricey and is simply one other barrier to care that may disproportionately have an effect on low-income individuals.
Florida can also be a really lengthy state. Individuals residing within the southern area of the state can have a for much longer journey than these within the north. “To go north means a really lengthy drive for individuals. With the ability to take the break day of labor and prepare for this sort of journey can put an abortion out of attain for a lot of,” mentioned Elizabeth Nash, a principal coverage affiliate at Guttmacher Institute.
If Roe is overturned, a 15-week abortion ban in Florida would have much more dire penalties. Surrounding states have set off bans, constitutional amendments outlawing abortion and different extreme restrictions that may instantly go into impact if Roe falls. And plenty of advocates and lawmakers fear that if Roe does fall, the conservative majority legislature in Florida would solely proceed to enact extra restrictive anti-abortion measures.
“This ban could be devastating to the panorama nationally. You’ve obtained an enormous, big vital a part of the nation — the southeastern a part of america — missing entry.”
– Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Professional Alternative-America
Though a 15-week ban isn’t as excessive as, say, Texas’ vigilante abortion legislation, many advocates and pro-abortion rights lawmakers within the state cautioned towards viewing a 15-week ban as any much less dangerous.
“The overwhelming majority of abortions in america do happen earlier than 15 weeks, however the ones that happen after 15 weeks are essentially the most compelling instances,” mentioned Berman, the state senator.
“You’ve obtained people who need the being pregnant however are then instructed about some sort of drawback that may happen with the being pregnant that may not fall into these restricted exceptions [the law] has given you. You’ve 14-year-old women who’re in denial that they’re even pregnant,” she mentioned. “Now, due to COVID, you’ve got individuals who aren’t even in a position to get into a physician earlier than 15 weeks of being pregnant. You even have ladies who’re saving cash who don’t have the funds to have the ability to afford an abortion, so it could be 15 weeks earlier than they get the cash collectively.”
Florida was really the primary state to suggest a copycat of Texas’ six-week abortion ban again in September, but it surely didn’t decide up steam within the state legislature. Reproductive rights advocates within the space predicted on the time that the legislature had launched a replica of the Texas legislation to make a 15-week ban appear much less excessive.
“We expect that they’re going to make use of [the copycat bill] as a option to go one thing that’s nearer to a Mississippi-style ban and be capable to say, ‘Hey, we listened to individuals and this isn’t the acute factor they did in Texas,’” Damien Filer, a communications marketing consultant with Deliberate Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, instructed HuffPost in October. “Our feeling is that they’re going to place one thing nearer to the Mississippi invoice because the kinder, gentler abortion ban.”
Florida’s 15-week ban proposal is simply as “merciless and barbaric” as different anti-abortion measures, however it could have an outsize influence on the nation if handed, mentioned Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Professional Alternative-America.
“This ban could be devastating to the panorama nationally,” she mentioned. “You’ve obtained an enormous, big vital a part of the nation ― the southeastern a part of america ― missing entry. That’s terrifying.”