Florida Governor Signs Six-Week Abortion Ban, Stirring Controversy

Floridians were surprised to find that Governor Ron DeSantis had signed a six-week abortion ban into law on Friday morning. The bill, approved by the state legislature earlier in the day, was signed during a late-night private meeting, contrasting sharply with the highly publicized signing of a 15-week abortion ban at an Orlando-area megachurch a year earlier.

DeSantis fulfilled his campaign promise to enact the heartbeat bill, just as he is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid. However, he has been relatively quiet about abortion since the fall of Roe v. Wade and has not outlined a federal platform before entering the race. The Governor did not mention the bill during a Friday morning speech at Liberty University, a deeply conservative Baptist college in Virginia.

Reactions to the Six-Week Abortion Ban

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The six-week ban has been met with mixed reactions. Amy Tarkanian, former chairwoman of the Republican Party in Nevada, said the ban would cause problems for DeSantis. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the bill “extreme and dangerous” and “out of step” with most Floridians and Americans.

A Republican fundraiser close to the Governor’s political operation told CNN that the ban would be well received in the primary but acknowledged it might not be as popular in the general election. This sentiment was echoed by a Marquette Law School poll last month, which found two-thirds of voters opposed the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.

Florida’s Abortion Laws and Ongoing Legal Challenges

Florida has been a sanctuary for those seeking abortions in the southeast since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The current 15-week limit is among the most lenient in the region, with many people traveling from other states for the procedure.

The six-week ban includes exceptions for cases of rape or incest, provided the woman can present documentation such as a police report or a restraining order. However, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates argues that these exceptions do not provide “meaningful access to patients in need” and that the ban would “shut down a critical abortion access point for millions.”

The fate of the new six-week abortion law is contingent on another ruling from Florida’s Supreme Court. The court is currently hearing a challenge to the state’s existing 15-week ban brought by abortion clinics. The six-week ban will only go into effect if the court upholds the 15-week law. Florida’s conservative Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of the 15-week ban, setting the stage for the six-week ban to become law.

The national debate over abortion continues to intensify, especially following a federal judge’s suspension of a widely used abortion drug, mifepristone, last week. An appellate court later blocked this suspension, and the Biden administration has said it will ask the Supreme Court to restore full access to the drug.

Political Implications of the Abortion Ban

The six-week abortion ban signed by Governor DeSantis is expected to play a significant role in his 2024 presidential campaign. The controversial law may energize both his supporters and opponents, highlighting the ever-present issue of abortion rights in the United States.

The Supreme Court’s decision last June, which ended a federal right to abortion access, has profoundly impacted the national political landscape. Democrats have secured multiple victories in the past year due to voters mobilized by abortion rights concerns. Examples include blocking an anti-abortion referendum in Kansas, Democratic Senate candidates winning key states like Pennsylvania and Nevada, and Democratic gubernatorial candidates triumphing in battlegrounds such as Arizona and Michigan.

A Litmus Test for GOP Presidential Candidates

Abortion has long been a litmus test for GOP presidential candidates. DeSantis’ six-week ban may bolster his credentials among conservative voters, but it may also alienate moderate voters in the general election. The abortion issue is expected to feature prominently in the upcoming GOP presidential primary, where DeSantis will likely face former President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices that voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It remains to be seen whether the six-week ban and the broader abortion debate will continue to influence general election voters, but the Marquette Law School poll indicates that public opinion has not shifted significantly on the Dobbs decision since the November midterms.

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