Los Angeles Times

Florida, abortion law and 2024

How a stricter ban might affect access in the South — and the race for president.

- By Geoff Mulvihill and Anthony Izaguirre Mulvihill and Izaguirre write for the Associated Press. Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, N.J.

TALLAHASSE, Fla. — Less than a year after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected Republican presidenti­al contender, signed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, he’s showing support for an even stricter ban introduced this week by state lawmakers.

His position could have implicatio­ns for access to abortion not only in Florida but across the South — and also figure into the 2024 presidenti­al race.

Current Florida law

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, giving states control over abortion. Some conservati­ve legislatur­es had passed bills years in advance that would ban abortion if Roe were overturned. Florida wasn’t among those states, but lawmakers there acted after a leak of a draft version of the new ruling, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organizati­on, that January.

Lawmakers in Florida agreed to ban abortions after 15 weeks, with an exception for life-threatenin­g pregnancie­s but not in cases of rape or incest. DeSantis signed the ban last April and it took effect that July.

The proposed ban

The deeper ban, proposed as Florida’s legislativ­e session opened on Tuesday, would make it a crime to provide an abortion after six weeks’ gestationa­l age.

There would be an exception for life-threatenin­g pregnancie­s, and exceptions until 15 weeks for pregnancie­s caused by rape or incest. Those cases would require documentat­ion such as a medical record, restrainin­g order or police report.

The measure would also require that the drugs for medication-induced abortions — the majority of abortions in the U.S. — could be dispensed only in person by a physician.

DeSantis this week called the rape and incest provisions “sensible” and reiterated his support for tighter restrictio­ns, saying, “We welcome pro-life legislatio­n.”

If Republican lawmakers can agree on the details, the measure is likely to become law.

DeSantis was easily reelected in November, when Republican­s also gained veto-proof majorities in the state Legislatur­e.

Impact in the South

With bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy in nearby Alabama, Louisiana and Mississipp­i, and a ban on terminatin­g pregnancie­s in Georgia after early cardiac activity can be detected — around six weeks — Florida has become a haven for those seeking abortions in the region.

A ban at the gestationa­l age of six weeks would mean fewer people traveling to Florida for abortions, and more looking at going even farther away, to places including North Carolina and Illinois.

“A six-week ban is a really substantia­l shock to practical abortion access across the South,” said Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College in Vermont who studies abortion access.

There would also be an impact for Florida residents.

Nationally, only about 4% of abortions occur after the 15-week mark, but most of them happen after 6 weeks and 6 days.

Myers said that in states with six-week bans, it appears about half of the people seeking abortions have been able to get them.

DeSantis’ campaign

Abortion bans are important for many Republican primary voters, and the ban DeSantis signed into law last year was far less aggressive than the laws in most GOP-controlled states. Thirteen states now have effective bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, and half a dozen have similar laws on the books but have had enforcemen­t stopped by courts.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another possible 2024 GOP presidenti­al candidate, was asked in a CBS News interview last year whether she would nudge DeSantis to further restrict abortion.

“I think that talking about situations and making statements is incredibly important,” she said. “But also taking action and governing and bringing policies that protect life are even more important, because that’s what truly will save lives.”

Moving Florida closer to what other GOP-controlled states have done on abortion by enacting the sixweek ban could be important as DeSantis presents himself as the architect of conservati­ve policies in a state that he says is doing what the nation should.

Florida Republican­s’ legislativ­e agenda for the coming months includes making guns more available, keeping immigrants who are in the country illegally out of the state, telling teachers which pronouns they can use for students and criminaliz­ing some drag shows.

DeSantis is expected to launch his presidenti­al candidacy formally after the legislativ­e session wraps in May, though the wheels of his campaign are already in motion. He spoke in the early nominating state of Iowa on Friday, and a former Trump White House official launched a group on Thursday encouragin­g DeSantis to run for president.

While aggressive abortion bans are popular with many conservati­ves, they are considered unpopular among other crucial voting blocs — especially suburban women who play an outsized role in general elections.

In 2022, there were ballot measures dealing with abortion in six states, including generally conservati­ve Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. In each of them, the abortion-rights side prevailed.

 ?? Phil Sears Associated Press ?? GOV. RON DeSANTIS, who’s expected to seek the 2024 GOP presidenti­al nomination, appears to support the six-week abortion ban Florida lawmakers propose.
Phil Sears Associated Press GOV. RON DeSANTIS, who’s expected to seek the 2024 GOP presidenti­al nomination, appears to support the six-week abortion ban Florida lawmakers propose.

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