Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed legislation that largely prohibits abortions in Florida beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill (HB 5) is among the strictest abortion prohibitions in the nation. The bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest, but does provide an exception if it is necessary to save a pregnant person’s life.
DeSantis signed the bill at Nacion de Fe, a Spanish-language church in Kissimmee. “Nacion de Fe” translates to “Faith Nation” in English.
“We are here today to protect life,” DeSantis told an applauding crowd. “We are here today to protect those that can’t protect themselves.”
Democratic lawmakers and activists pushed back against the legislation throughout the 2022 Legislative Session. Opponents hosted rallies, packed committee rooms and flooded the phone lines of lawmakers.
Among other criticisms, opponents lamented a provision requiring two physicians to certify a life-threatening emergency prior to accessing an abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. They contend the provision will disproportionately harm low-income and minority women, who may lack adequate access to health care.
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book decried the measure as “authoritarian” and “cruel” against women.
“Florida Republicans claim we are the ‘Free State of Florida’ — yet there is no freedom when women are denied access to critical health care and the ability to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives,” said Book, a sexual abuse survivor. “This abortion ban has total disregard for victims of rape, incest, and human trafficking who may need more time to physically and psychologically heal, arrive at a decision, and receive care.”
Florida law currently prohibits third-trimester abortions — which the law says begins at the 24th week of gestation. The term gestation refers to the time between conception and birth. According to a staff analysis, Florida recorded 209,645 live births in 2020 and 72,073 abortions — most of them elective.
The bill is similar in nature to a controversial Mississippi law, currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. A judgment is expected in the coming weeks or months, posing the possibility that Roe v. Wade gets overturned. The landmark Supreme Court case ruled in 1973 protects a women’s access to abortion without “excessive government restriction.”
“I made a mistake that I cannot change,” said Heather Brown of her previous abortion. Brown is the sister of Rep. Erin Grall, the bill sponsor. “This bill will save mothers and fathers from the lifetime of pain and regret that I have suffered.”
Speaking to attendees, DeSantis on Thursday praised HB 5 as “the most significant protections” signed into Florida law within the last generation.
Roughly a dozen Republican lawmakers stood alongside DeSantis at the press conference, including Senate President Wilton Simpson.
Adopted as a child, Simpson applauded the legislation and highlighted the importance of protections for the unborn and foster children. He highlighted several new laws championed by DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, including a bill boosting foster parent support.
“Government is a horrible parent,” said Simpson, who is running as a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.
Sprowls spoke at the event as well, praising DeSantis as the “most pro-life Governor” in the nation. Sprowls sponsored a proposal promoting fatherhood initiatives in Florida. DeSantis signed it earlier this week.
“Every child has a right to life,” Sprowls said.
There is more to the bill, though, than abortion provisions. It loops pregnant women into a state tobacco education program. It also creates an infant mortality review process, bolsters infant mortality reduction initiatives and enhances Florida’s abortion reporting requirements to include instances of human trafficking.
Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel and Vero Beach Republican Rep. Grall sponsored the proposal.
“God had a plan for every single child that he allowed to be conceived,” said Stargel, who had an unplanned pregnancy.
The bill will take effect July 1.