Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Mississippi-style abortion ban into law
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis has publicly signed into law a 15-week abortion ban that shortens by more than two months the current window available to legally terminate a pregnancy.
Within minutes of his office announcing that he had received the bill (HB 5), approved by the Legislature in March, DeSantis held a bill signing ceremony and rally at an evangelical church in Kissimmee.
The new law, which goes into effect July 1, significantly reduces access to late-term abortions in the Southeast — North Carolina will become the only Southern state to permit an abortion after 15 weeks.
Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate had defeated amendments that would have made exceptions for rape, incest, human trafficking and mental health. The only exceptions allowed are cases where the mother is at risk of death, "irreversible physical impairment" or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.
"We're here today to defend those who can't defend themselves," DeSantis said.
"Fifteen weeks is a time where these babies have beating hearts. They can move. They can taste. They can see. They can feel pain. They can suck. And they have brain waves," DeSantis said at Nacion de Fe.
Earlier this month, the church organized a protest over "pornography" in public schools and against the teaching of critical race theory at a meeting of the Osceola County School Board.
24-hour waiting period:After 7 year legal battle, Leon County judge signs off on Florida abortion waiting period
What changes in abortion law? Which abortions will be legal and illegal in Florida after Gov. DeSantis signs the new bill?
If a physician violates provisions of the abortion ban, they would be guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Flanked by Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and a bevy of lawmakers, DeSantis said the measure provides "the most significant protections for life" in a generation.
Sprowls defended the limited exceptions in the new law with a declaration that "Every child has a right to life," and excited the crowd to cheers and applause when he said they were "blessed to be Floridians," because DeSantis is "the most pro-life governor in America."
Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee denounced the new law as government interfence into the personal lives of Floridians.
"That should have no place in our state," said Tant while DeSantis and Republican legislative leaders rallied with the bill's supporters.
"Family planning and women's health should not be dictated by politicians," said Tant.
Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, a candidate for governor, called out Republican leaders "hypocrisy" for bragging about "the free state of Florida," while pushing a law" to force women and girls to give birth.
"This law is a direct attack on women’s constitutional rights, and it’s cruel, extreme, and inhumane,” said Fried.
Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, also a candidate for governor said DeSantis' actions made Floridians less free.
"The conservative values of freedom and limited government that the Governor claims to fight for, have gone right out the window when it comes to a woman’s choice about her own body," said Taddeo.
And Congressman Charlie Crist, who leads the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge DeSantis in November, said if elected, " ... I would veto this bill and any attempt to restrict a woman’s right to choose.”
The legislation imposes Florida's most restrictive abortion regulations since the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision established abortion as a constitutional right. Abortion providers and women advocacy groups are expected to quickly challenge the new law.
Abortion rights advocates said they will challenge the new law in court.
“If these politicians think the fight against this abortion ban is over they are sadly mistaken. We won’t rest until our rights are restored. No one has the right to control what we can and cannot do with our own bodies," said Stephanie Fraim, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
Florida Constitution privacy provision complicates in-state abortion restrictions
Until now, a privacy provision in the Florida Constitution that guarantees a right to be let alone by the government has blocked abortion restrictions.
But the provision is grounded in a constitutional right to an abortion established by the Roe v. Wade decision that women rights group fear the U.S. Supreme Court will undermine or overturn this summer.
The Florida law mirrors a Mississippi law at the heart of the case before the nation's high court.
Abortion law scholar Mary Ziegler has told the USA TODAY Network-Florida that the justices went looking for an opportunity to reopen Roe.
There is no split in lower court decisions or conflict in state statutes for the justices to resolve in the case, said Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor.
DeSantis signed the law closing access to an abortion at 15 weeks, two days after a judge allowed a 24-hour waiting period on the procedure to go into effect. Abortion rights advocates had spent seven years on an attempt to block that waiting period.
Tallahassee Democrat reporter Ana Goñi-Lessan contributed to this report. James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee