TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday night signed into law a bill that would ban abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy. DeSantis quietly signed the bill (SB-300) — called Florida’s “Heartbeat Protection Act” — at his office at around 11 p.m., according to a Twitter post from the governor’s office.
“Signed the Heartbeat Protection Act, which expands pro-life protections and devotes resources to help young mothers and families,” the post read.
The bill will ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for life-threatening medical complications. Pregnancies involving rape or incest can be terminated at up to 15 weeks, but documentation, such as a restraining order or police report, would be required.
Reproductive health advocates have called the parameters for exemptions restrictive, and have pointed out that many people do not find out they are pregnant until it is too late.
“This ban will compound the harms already done in Florida, denying people access to essential care and forcing some to carry pregnancies against their will. This is unconscionable and unsustainable,” said Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “Florida’s Planned Parenthood affiliates will do everything in our power to mitigate the harm of this ban and ensure that people can still get abortion care, whether in Florida or elsewhere.”
On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats duked it out on the House floor for nearly eight hours as they argued their opposing positions.
Rep. David Borrero (R-Miami) referred to abortion as “dismemberment of an innocent human child.” Rep. Robin Bartleman (D-Broward) disagreed, saying, “No one belongs in that room but me, my husband, my God and my doctor.”
Things got heated in the House gallery, too. Abortion rights protesters threw wads of paper at lawmakers on the chamber floor, prompting security to clear the gallery and close the chamber to spectators.
House Democrats fiercely opposed the legislation, but in the end, they were outnumbered by Republican supermajorities in both chambers. Still, voters in Tampa Bay appeared divided on either side of the issue.
“Every human being has been created in God’s image,” said Phyllis Esposito, with the Tampa Bay Pro-Life Alliance. “And to take somebody else’s life is never OK.”
May Thach, with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, disagreed, saying the legislation is “just an arbitrary number that again just further restricts people and their access to healthcare.”
Although the bill was signed, it faces a major roadblock before it can go into effect. One of the following events would first need to take place, at which point the bill would go into effect 30 days later:
- A decision by the Florida Supreme Court holds that the right to privacy enshrined in the Florida Constitution does not include a right to abortion
- A decision by the Florida Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. State, which allows the prohibition on abortions after 15 weeks in Florida statutes, to remain in effect, including a decision approving, in whole or in part, the first district court of appeal’s decision under review or a decision discharging jurisdiction
- An amendment to the Florida constitution clarifying that S. 23, Article I of the state constitution does not include a right to abortion
- A decision from the Florida Supreme Court, receding, in whole or in part, from in re T.W., 551 So. 2d 1186 (Fla. 1989), 312 North Fla. Women’s Health v. State, 866 So. 2d 612 (Fla. 2003), 313 or Gainesville Woman Care, LLC v. State, 210 So. 3d 1243 (Fla. 314 2017)
You can read SB-300, in its entirety, at Nexstar’s WFLA.