TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following its approval Thursday in the Florida House of Representatives, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially signed the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” banning most abortions after six weeks of gestation.
The law (SB 300) reduces the timeframe from the previous limit of 15 weeks.
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It also provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest or human trafficking if the unborn child is younger than 15 weeks. In those cases, a woman would have to provide documentation such as a medical record, restraining order or police report.
According to the CDC, an unborn child’s central nervous system and heart can begin to develop as early as three weeks into a pregnancy, which is likely the cause behind the law’s title.
DeSantis announced the signing Thursday night on social media, saying it “expands pro-life protections and devotes resources to help young mothers and families.”
Signed the Heartbeat Protection Act, which expands pro-life protections and devotes resources to help young mothers and families. pic.twitter.com/quZpSj1ZPk— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 14, 2023
Under the new law, the Department of Health would provide for assistance to parents and pregnant mothers, including items like clothing, cribs, baby formula, diapers and car seats.
In addition, counseling, education materials and classes involving pregnancy, parenting, adoption, life skills and employment readiness would be made available using state funds, the text reads.
It would also require that the drugs used in medication-induced abortions could only be dispensed in person by a physician, as opposed to using telehealth services.
According to the law’s text, state funds would no longer be allowed to go toward helping women travel to another state to receive an abortion, unless the woman’s life is at risk or the funds are federally required.
Abortion restrictions have become a controversial issue in the U.S., with opponents arguing that such laws violate women’s bodily autonomy and supporters defending the laws as necessary to protect unborn children.
Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, R-District 33, said that he understood the views of his opponents, but he still thought it was necessary to vote in favor of the law..
“I don’t think it’s an easy decision. As I said on the floor, this is about the rights of a woman to do what she wants to do with her body versus the right of the baby to live,” he said. “And no matter which side of the issue you’re on, it’s important to acknowledge the cost to the other side, so while I am pro-life, I believe that life begins at conception.”
Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-District 42, came out against the law, saying that a portion of the act’s funding would go toward pro-life women’s clinics and billboards advertising non-abortion options.
“These are organizations in Florida that prey on women who find themselves in situations of unplanned pregnancies and do not communicate to them that abortion is even an option,” she said.
Meanwhile, Florida state Sen. Linda Stewart, D-District 17 — another lawmaker who spoke out against the act — stated that she believed the bill was signed late on Thursday because DeSantis felt it was unpopular.
“The timing speaks for itself. It was done quietly and not with fanfare, which is unlike most all the other (bills),” Stewart said.
Fine added that because the law has stricter stipulations for pregnant women, state officials had a duty to provide aid for those women.
“I side with the baby, but I understand their view. They believe that the right of a woman to do what she wants with her body is more important than the right of a baby...” Fine said. “I recognize by reducing those rights, I think the state has an obligation to help those mothers and those babies.”
The new law will 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.
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