The Florida Senate passed a bill Monday that would ban abortions after six weeks’ gestation, and the Florida House of Representatives will most likely vote on the matter this week. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.
Senate Bill 300 (SB 300), called the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” is sponsored by Republican Sen. Erin Grall.
“We have to rely on science, and what we know is that there is a heartbeat, there is a human life that exists, and we are either going to stand for life or not,” Grall said.
The bill would also mandate that “any abortion must be performed in-person by a medical doctor or osteopathic physician.” That means the Heartbeat Protection Act would ban the prescription of abortion medications through telemedicine and would prevent the distribution of those medications by mail.
SB 300 also provides $30 million in new funding to mothers and families, including “nonmedical material assistance to families.” The Senate’s proposed budget allocates $474.7 million to extended postpartum coverage through Medicaid.
The six-week ban would permit exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking. The Heartbeat Protection Act would require physicians to “report known or suspected human trafficking of adults to local law enforcement” and “report incidents of rape, incest, or human trafficking of minors.” The bill aims to hold violent perpetrators accountable and would reportedly require women to present documentation like medical records, police reports, or restraining orders to qualify for an exemption.
Democrats have been painting Florida as an “abortion haven” for the South — and a satellite abortion state for women from various Caribbean and Latin American countries with total abortion bans. From 2021 to 2022, Florida saw a 38 percent increase in the number of abortions that were performed.
Florida’s abortion data indicates that, while exceptions dominate debates about abortion policy, the actual cases where women have sought an abortion after rape and incest are dwarfed by the massive number of elective abortions. In 2022, over 82,000 women had abortions in Florida. According to the state’s abortion data, less than one-fifth of 1 percent of abortions occurred in cases of rape, and less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of abortions occurred in cases of incest.
SB 300 would go into effect after the Florida Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the state’s 15-week abortion ban, which DeSantis signed into law in April 2022. The ban — also sponsored by Grall — took effect in July of 2022 and was subsequently challenged by Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among other organizations. A decision from the state’s Supreme Court is anticipated by summer.
The Heartbeat Protection Act’s more restrictive abortion ban could boost DeSantis’s conservative bona fides ahead of an anticipated 2024 primary run. Students for Life America President Kristan Hawkins said: “I would think that helps him be seen as a leader in the [pro-life] movement. You know, when he eventually announces his candidacy, that’s a missed leadership opportunity for him if he doesn’t.”
Even with a six-week ban, Florida would remain more permissive than other states with total or near-total abortion bans. Since Roe v. Wade fell in June, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have banned abortion, with some states permitting exceptions in cases of rape or incest. But at six weeks, Florida’s proposed ban would have a major impact on decreasing the number of abortions, as many women do not yet know that they are pregnant when their child is six weeks old.
Debates continue to rage about the possibility and prudence of a DeSantis presidential campaign, but one thing is certain: Florida is one step closer to joining other red states in their stand for the cause of life.
Mary Frances Myler is a postgraduate fellow at the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government.