Florida lawmakers, DeSantis approve six-week abortion ban - Catholic Courier
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is pictured in a March 8, 2023, photo. Florida lawmakers approved a bill to ban abortions after six weeks, a proposal supported by DeSantis, a Catholic, who previously indicated he would sign the bill if it reached his desk. (OSV News photo/Scott Audette, Reuters)

Florida lawmakers, DeSantis approve six-week abortion ban

OSV News) — Florida lawmakers and the state’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to launch his bid for the Republican presidential nomination soon, approved a bill April 13 to ban abortions after six weeks.

The new bill would only go into effect if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld amid an ongoing legal challenge before the Florida Supreme Court.

DeSantis, who is Catholic, previously indicated he would sign the bill if it reached his desk. His decision could become a frequent topic for supporters and critics alike if DeSantis does launch an anticipated presidential campaign.

“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for passing the Heartbeat Protection Act that expands pro-life protections and provides additional resources for young mothers and families.”

Bill prohibits most abortions in the state

Lawmakers in the state House approved the bill largely along party lines in a 70-40 vote. The state Senate approved the measure earlier in April.

Senate Bill 300, the Heartbeat Protection Act, would prohibit most abortions in the state, with exceptions for women who are victims of rape or who face a mortality risk associated with the pregnancy. The bill also would make exceptions for cases of a diagnosis of a fatal fetal anomaly until the third trimester and also allocates some funds to crisis pregnancy centers, and restricts the use of abortion drugs via telemedicine, requiring in-person visits rather than the distribution of those drugs by mail.

DeSantis has not yet formally announced his plans for the 2024 election cycle, but he is widely seen as a prospective GOP presidential candidate, and he has made recent visits to early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Should DeSantis seek his party’s presidential nomination, he could be one of the only GOP candidates to approve a ban on abortion as early as six weeks gestation.

Supporters of the measure said it would protect human life from the earliest stage of its development, where opponents called the measure restrictive, banning abortion before many women even know they are pregnant.

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death and, as such, opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child. In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the U.S. bishops have reiterated the church’s commitment to serving both women and unborn children.

Six-week abortion ban is ‘tremendous improvement over current law’

In a statement, Christie Arnold, associate for social concerns and respect life for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “With the passage of the Heartbeat Protection Act, life is better respected and protected in the early stages of development.”

“While the bill contains exceptions to the six-week abortion ban, including for rape, incest or human trafficking, it remains a tremendous improvement over current law,” Arnold said. “As we look forward to a time when all abortions are unthinkable as well as illegal, we know that when this law’s abortion limits take effect tens of thousands of lives will be saved.”

Arnold praised provisions in the bill “that seek to provide services and material support to pregnant women and their young children.”

“An increase from $4 million to $25 million in state funding for vital pregnancy and parenting support will allow for increased opportunities to address the essential needs of mothers and families,” she said.

Arnold thanked the bill sponsors, state Sen. Erin Grall and state Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, and urged DeSantis to sign the bill.

“The abortion restrictions in the bill will not go into effect unless the Florida Supreme Court rules to uphold a 15-week abortion ban passed in 2022,” she added. “We are hopeful, however, that the Court’s decision will ultimately allow this law restricting abortion after six-weeks gestation to go into effect.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund continues to oppose the measure

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement that the ban would not immediately go into effect, adding in a statement that her organization plans to continue to oppose the measure.

“From Ron DeSantis down, many lawmakers in Florida will stop at nothing to take away our freedom to make decisions about our own bodies,” McGill Johnson said. “Despite clear evidence of harm, they have doubled down on abortion bans to deprive millions of people of essential health care. These policy decisions disproportionately hurt Black and Latino people, LGBTQ+ people, and people with low incomes due to systemic racism and discrimination.”

“While today we mourn the imminent loss of abortion access for millions of people,” she continued, “we will keep fighting back in the days, months, and years to come until all Floridians can get the care they deserve without barriers or delay. Planned Parenthood Action Fund and our supporters will hold the politicians who have endangered our lives and futures accountable.”

Six-week abortion ban is a ‘major win for babies and mothers’

But Katie Daniel, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s state policy director, said in a statement that “Florida lawmakers today delivered a major win for babies and mothers and a huge step forward for the Sunshine State.”

“Unborn babies are human beings with beating hearts at six weeks’ gestation,” Daniel said. “A heartbeat at this point indicates a greater than 90% chance of surviving to birth. The Heartbeat Protection Act reflects these scientific facts and the consensus of 62% of Floridians — including majorities of women and Independents — that these vulnerable children deserve protection. Not only will this compassionate bill save tens of thousands of lives directly by protecting babies from abortion violence, it also provides $25 million in support for moms.”

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on Twitter @kgscanlon.

Tags: Abortion
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