The GOP-controlled Florida House on Thursday approved a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, sending the legislation to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) desk.
The bill’s passage is a major policy win for DeSantis ahead of an expected 2024 presidential bid. The Florida governor signed into law a 15-week abortion ban last year, but has said that he would support more restrictive measures and is expected to sign the latest piece of legislation.
Even if he signs the measure, however, the new ban is still contingent on how the state Supreme Court rules in a challenge to the current 15-week prohibition.
The vote in the state House came just 10 days after the Florida state Senate approved a similar bill. The measure will now head to DeSantis for final approval.
DeSantis has already indicated that he plans on signing the bill, which would put Florida among at least a dozen other states that have approved six-week abortion bans.
It’s a major victory for anti-abortion activists who have hoped for tougher restrictions in the Sunshine State, which has long been a haven in the South for women seeking abortions. Activists also pressured DeSantis to back further legislation.
“Florida lawmakers today delivered a major win for babies and mothers and a huge step forward for the Sunshine State,” said Katie Daniel, the director of state policy for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a prominent anti-abortion rights group. “Unborn babies are human beings with beating hearts at six weeks’ gestation.”
Abortion rights proponents decried the vote on Thursday, describing it as a devastating infringement on womens’ rights in Florida.
“This is a dark day for our state,” Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said. “Women in Ron DeSantis’ Florida are now less safe and will be forced to live under what effectively will be an outright abortion ban.”
“As we said over and over, six weeks is before most women even know they’re pregnant, and it’s long before many tests for the viability, safety, and health of both the mother and fetus,” she added.
While the legislation could help bolster DeSantis’s conservative credentials ahead of a likely 2024 presidential bid, it could also carry political consequences.
Abortion rights have proved a difficult issue for Republicans to navigate since last summer when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that defined abortion rights for decades.
Some prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have sought to avoid the issue as much as possible, fearing that messaging on new abortion restrictions could scare off independent and moderate women voters.
The vote in the Florida state House came amid a separate legal battle over the availability of the abortion drug mifepristone. A federal judge in Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug last week. A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the drug can remain on the market but restricted its availability.
The Justice Department has said it plans to ask the Supreme Court to review the matter.
Updated at 5:13 p.m.