A woman who has chosen to remain anonymous speaks with Doctor Audrey (R) before having an abortion at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida, July 14, 2022.
Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images
The Florida state legislature on Tuesday introduced legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks when many women are unaware they are pregnant, with limited exceptions for medical emergencies and cases of rape and incest.
The law, introduced in the Florida House and Senate, would make performing an abortion after six weeks a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The legislature allows abortions in cases of rape and incest, but only up to the 15th week of pregnancy, as determined by a doctor. The woman must prove that she was the victim of rape or incest by providing a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical report, or other court document at the time she will have the abortion.
Abortion is also permitted in serious medical emergencies if two doctors certify in writing that there is a risk of death or a serious risk of a significant impairment of a bodily function for the pregnant woman. In cases where a second doctor is not available for consultation, a doctor can make this call.
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The legislation also allows abortions up to the third trimester in cases where the fetus has a fatal abnormality, but two doctors must confirm this fact.
The White House condemned the proposed abortion ban, saying it would endanger access not only in Florida but throughout the South, where many states already have severe abortion restrictions or outright bans. Florida law currently allows abortions up to 15 weeks gestation.
“Not only would this ban prevent the nearly 4 million women of childbearing age in Florida from accessing abortion treatments after six weeks, it would also affect the nearly 15 million women of childbearing age living in states throughout the South with bans on abortion and would no longer be able to rely on Florida as an option for accessing medical care,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Although Florida legislation provides an exception for medical emergencies, in states like Texas with near-total bans, women have said they were denied abortions despite facing dangerous pregnancy complications. Five women have sued Texas, asking a state court to clarify the scope of the emergency medical exception.
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Republicans introduced the bill into the Florida Legislature the same day that Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his annual state of the state address. The governor made no mention of the legislation in his address, but said, “We are proud to be pro-life in the state of Florida.”
The legislation, introduced on Tuesday, also requires the abortion pill mifepristone to be dispensed to the patient by a doctor during an in-person appointment. Legislation prohibits shipping of abortion pills through the state mail by the US Postal Service or any other carrier.
DeSantis signed into law in April 2022 banning abortion after 15 weeks. That law went into effect in July, days after the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade and ended 50 years of federal protections for abortion rights under the US Constitution.
Florida previously allowed abortions up to 24 weeks gestation.