The Florida state senate on Monday approved a bill to ban abortions after six weeks, a measure supported by Governor Ron DeSantis as the Republican prepares to launch his expected presidential candidacy.
The proposal must still be approved by the house in the state legislature before it reaches the governor’s desk. Florida currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks.
A six-week ban would more closely align Florida with the abortion restrictions of other Republican-controlled states and give DeSantis a political win on an issue important with GOP primary voters ahead of his potential White House run.
The bill would have larger implications for abortion access throughout the south, as the nearby states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi prohibit the procedure at all stages of pregnancy and Georgia bans it after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks.
“Bodily autonomy should not give a person the permission to kill an innocent human being. We live in a time where the consequences of our actions are an afterthought and convenience has been substitution for responsibility, and this is unacceptable when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable,” said Erin Grall, a Republican state senator who sponsored the bill.
The proposal allows exceptions to save the life of the woman and exceptions in the case of pregnancy caused by rape or incest until 15 weeks of pregnancy. In those cases, a woman would have to provide documentation such as a medical record, restraining order or police report. DeSantis has called the rape and incest provisions sensible.
It would require that the drugs used in medication-induced abortions – which make up the majority of those provided nationally – could be dispensed only in person by a physician.
The new bill would only take effect if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the state supreme court.
Republicans control a supermajority in the Florida state legislature and have largely focused on DeSantis’s priorities during the ongoing legislative session. DeSantis is expected to announce his presidential candidacy after the session ends in May, with his potential White House run in part buoyed up by the conservative policies approved in the statehouse this year.
Democrats have conceded that they cannot stop the proposal from moving forward.
During debate on Monday, Democratic sate senator Lauren Book urged women to contact her office directly, reading her phone number aloud on the senate floor, if they are considering getting an abortion and need to connect with healthcare providers.
“Please don’t take matters into your own hands. Do not put your safety at risk. No back-alley abortions. There are people and funds that will help you. No matter where you live, no matter how desperate of a situation you are in, no matter how helpless it may seem. I promise, you are not alone. Call my office,” Book said.
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