Abortion Bill Passes Florida Legislatures

Abortions Beyond 15 Weeks May Soon Be Restricted

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Roe v. Wade set a precedent of only limiting abortion past the point where the fetus is viable outside of the womb.

Kate Stout

Following the passage of a bill banning abortions after fifteen weeks, Florida waits for the signature of governor Ron DeSantis to turn it into law.

The bill is another addition to the ever-growing list of abortion restricting legislation in the United States. Although it is not as extreme as other states, it is facing backlash for the lack of exceptions, including not allowing rape or incest victims to terminate their pregnancies after the 15 week point. If two physicians sign off as agreeing that continuing the pregnancy is of significant physical danger to the person carrying the child or a fatal fetal abnormality occurs then an abortion may legally occur.

Disregarding state specific legislation, the United States relies on a supreme court case from 1973, named Roe v. Wade, to regulate abortion. The agreement from the supreme court was that the law should remain separate from abortion before the fetus was viable, meaning that the child could survive outside of the uterus. The specific time fluctuates, but is around 23 weeks.

Other states have passed more extreme abortion related legislation, namely Texas. In Texas, abortion after six weeks is illegal, or, more specifically, at any point after a heartbeat can be detected. The main controversy surrounding the six week limit is that many people are not aware that they are pregnant prior to six weeks.

Even the fifteen week rule is considered by some to be an insufficient amount of time for someone to receive an abortion, especially those that are a victim of abuse. A sex trafficking survivor who is beyond fifteen weeks is expected to carry the child to full term. Floridian Democratic representative Anna Eskamani released a statement discussing the lack of exceptions.

“Let me be clear: there is no such thing as a reasonable abortion ban. Nothing in this ban is moderate, it is extreme. And despite impassioned pleas by Democrats to pass amendments that would provide exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking none were accepted by the Republican majority,” Representative Eskamani wrote.

While she acknowledged that there were some cases where an abortion may occur after the 15 week mark, the need for two physicians to agree (in non emergency situations) and the narrowness of the exceptions, rendered them not enough. She explained the nature of the exceptions as creating “an unnecessary and undue burden to an already restrictive bill.”

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) studies the number of abortions in the United States to provide a broad brush look at when most abortions occur, who has abortions, and how most abortions happen. The most recent information is from 2019, and it breaks down at what point during pregnancy most abortions occured.

“The majority of abortions in 2019 took place early in gestation: 92.7% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (6.2%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (<1.0%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation,” the CDC states.

The information from the CDC suggests that the bill in Florida would not affect the majority of abortions, assuming these trends remain the same. 42.3% of the abortions the CDC’s research discusses were early medical abortions, meaning that the abortion was completed via medication at or before the nine week point.

So, judging by these statistics, for the vast majority of people in Florida that find themselves considering abortion, they will be able to have a legal abortion. The main arguments with the bill are the lack of exceptions and the exacerbation the role of socio-economic factors in determining the ability of a person to receive an abortion, such as the cost or a lack of transportion. These factors become more significant when there is smaller window of time during which an abortion is available.

If someone is caught in a situation where they decide to have an abortion but are past the fifteen week limit, they would either have to resort to illegal means of terminating their pregancy (which is extremely dangerous in addition to unlawful) or would need to travel to another state. This is very expensive and impossible in many situations.

However, the argument about when a child becomes a child rages on, and the ethics of abortion as certain pregnancy milestones are reached remain divisive. DeSantis highlighted some of these developmental markers while supporting the bill at an event in Jacksonville. This bill slots perfectly into DeStantis’ image, as he has a deeply conservative hold on Florida, along with the legislatures.

“These are protections for babies that have heartbeats, that can feel pain, and this is very, very late,” Governor DeSantis said. “And so, I think when you’re talking about late term, you know, that’s one thing. And so, you know, I think the protections are warranted.”

Florida’s bill is hardly the harshest when it comes to limiting abortion in the United States, but Democrat concern increases when the ban is coupled with other legislation. For instance, the passage of the bill “Parental Rights in Education”, or as it is better known the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that the bill will not be passed. It is also unlikely that the legislation will be repealed at any point in the near future. The nearly fifty year old “default stance” on abortion in the United States has been consistently challenged at the state level, and Roe v. Wade may be in danger of being overturned.

The country’s abortion laws are dividing the nation around party lines. Either way, the future of abortion and the impacts of this on people at both the federal and community level remains unknowable. Vice President Kamala Harris released a statement on the bill.

“Unconstitutional abortion bans and other bills that will dramatically reduce access to reproductive care are pending in state legislatures across the country,” Vice President Harris wrote. “These efforts only strengthen our resolve: The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to do everything in our power to protect access to healthcare and defend a woman’s right to make decisions about her body and determine her future.”