Florida Republicans introduced parallel bills on Tuesday in the House and Senate that would further restrict the state’s abortion ban to six from 15 weeks of pregnancy.
If a ban passes and is signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida would prohibit abortion before many women even realize they are pregnant.
Filed on the first day of the 2023 legislative session, the bills had been telegraphed for weeks, as Republican leaders who control Tallahassee sought to build on the anti-abortion momentum generated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who is widely expected to run for president, said on Tuesday that he supported additional restrictions, though the bills also offer a reminder of the political complexities that he must navigate.
Abortion restrictions appeal to Republicans, but 64 percent of Florida residents believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute. Legal abortion is also supported by the wider American public, whom Mr. DeSantis would have to face in a general election.
More on Abortion Issues in America
- In Texas: Five women sued the state over its abortion ban, saying that they were denied the procedure despite grave risks to themselves and their fetuses.
- An Abortion Destination: North Carolina, where abortion remains legal up to 20 weeks, has become a top destination for people from states where it has been banned or severely restricted since Roe was overturned.
- A Threat to Abortion Pills: A federal judge in Texas is set to rule on a case filed by anti-abortion groups urging the F.D.A. to revoke a two-drug abortion pill regimen of mifepristone followed by misoprostol.
- Walgreens: A few weeks after Republican attorneys general in 21 states sent letters threatening legal action against retail pharmacy chains if they dispensed the abortion pill mifepristone, Walgreens said it would not distribute the pill in those states.
Mr. DeSantis signed a law last year banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, down from 24 weeks, without exceptions for rape or incest. That law was not as strict as what many conservatives have demanded. At least 13 states have bans that prohibit most abortions.
Abortion rights supporters are suing the state over the 15-week ban, though it remains in effect while the court case proceeds.
One of the first questions Mr. DeSantis fielded at a news conference on Tuesday, after his annual state of the state address, focused on the new abortion bills, which were filed shortly before his speech. The bills allow for exceptions to the proposed bans in cases of rape or incest until 15 weeks of pregnancy, or if the mother’s life is in danger.
“I think those exceptions are sensible,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We welcome pro-life legislation.”
Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican and the Senate president, said she supported the six-week ban. She had previously signaled that a 12-week ban might be more palatable to lawmakers.
“My No. 1 priority was the inclusion, in whatever legislation we carry, was an exception for rape and incest,” she told reporters in the State Capitol on Tuesday.
Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican and the House speaker, noted that the bill included “trigger language,” meaning that it would not take effect until after the Florida Supreme Court rules on the 15-week abortion ban that legislators passed last year.
Among other provisions, the new bills would ban telemedicine for abortion and require that medication abortion be dispensed in person by a doctor. Doctors who break the law would be punishable by up to five years in prison.
Democrats were quick to criticize both the contents of the legislation and the messengers.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told The Miami Herald: “Politicians like Governor DeSantis espouse ‘freedom for all,’ while directly attacking the freedom to make one’s own health care decisions.”
In an email, Representative Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat and the House minority leader, said the bills would essentially make “all abortions impossible” and adversely affect “people from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other states in the South who otherwise would have looked to Florida for abortion access.”
She added: “Politicians should never be involved in the medical decisions between a person and their doctor.”