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     By Elisha Brown

Florida, which currently allows abortion up to 15 weeks, is weighing a six-week ban, which received a first hearing by a House subcommittee this week. (Danielle J. Brown/Florida Phoenix)

Florida, which currently allows abortion up to 15 weeks, is weighing a six-week ban, which received a first hearing by a House subcommittee this week. 
(Danielle J. Brown/Florida Phoenix)

After hearing nearly 150 testimonies, where in opposing the measure one woman cried and health care providers described the fear and risk to patients and families, a Florida House subcommittee passed a six-week abortion ban bill Thursday, according to Florida Phoenix. Abortion rights advocates and health care professionals consoled each other after the hearing, the Phoenix reported. All amendments proposed by House Democrats failed. The bill moves from the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee to Health & Human Services Committee. The Senate version of the bill will be heard by the Health Policy committee on Monday.

If approved by the Legislature’s Republican supermajority –  last week, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told reporters she supported the proposal because it includes exceptions for rape and incest – and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, those seeking to end their pregnancies will only have six weeks to make a decision, around the time most people learn they are pregnant. 

Right now, Florida has a 15-week abortion ban that DeSantis signed into law last year. In the South, the region with the most abortion restrictions, Florida saw a small uptick in abortions a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in July, according to an October report released by the Society of Family Planning. Florida is the closest state to obtain an elective abortion in the Gulf Coast region, especially for people in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. 

Senate Bill 300 – House Bill 7 in the lower chamber – is named “Pregnancy and Parenting Support.” Republican state Sen. Erin Grall introduced the proposal last week. Here are a few caveats: 

  • The state Department of Health subcontractor Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a nonprofit that funnels money to anti-abortion centers, according to abortion rights group Floridians for Reproductive Freedom, must only work with organizations that “exclusively promote and support childbirth.” 
  • Physicians are only allowed to terminate pregnancies after six weeks gestation if two doctors sign in writing that an abortion could save a mother’s life or the fetus has a fatal abnormality.
  • If a pregnancy stems from rape or incest and the person is no more than 15 weeks pregnant, the patient must provide evidence – a restraining order, police report, medical record or a court order – at the health care provider to receive an abortion. 
  • Abortion medication must be dispensed in-person by the doctor to the patient. 

Republican DeSantis, who is positioning himself to run for president, has not specifically endorsed the six-week abortion ban bill, but as our colleagues at the Phoenix have chronicled, he is staunchly anti-abortion.  “I have said on both of those, we are for constitutional carry, we’re pro-life. I urge the Legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign,” DeSantis said last month. 

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that Floridians have the right to abortion based on a privacy provision in the state constitution. But the issue is back on the state high court docket which has  agreed to hear legal challenges to the 15-week ban brought by abortion providers. That outcome will be decided by a court that has become more conservative under DeSantis who has appointed several judges.

THE BEAT States Newsroom coverage

VP Harris touts Michigan's reproductive rights progress

Vice President Kamala Harris commended Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her state’s reproductive rights initiatives during a call with reporters this week, Michigan Advance reported. The state Legislature recently passed a bill that would strike down a 1931 abortion ban; Gov. Whitmer said she will sign the bill into law. “… In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer and state and local leaders have led the way to defend reproductive freedom in that state,” Harris said. “And last November, Michigan was one of the states where voters protected reproductive rights in their state Constitution,” Harris said. 

Harris called the Texas abortion pill case an attack on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and pointed to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s statements “that states may not ban mifepristone … because they disagree with the FDA’s judgment” when asked how the Biden administration would respond to the outcome of a medication abortion lawsuit in a Texas federal court. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk heard arguments Wednesday from counsel representing the plaintiffs – anti-abortion medical groups and anti-abortion doctors – and defendants – the FDA – concerning the agency’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, an abortion medication. If Kacsmaryk rules in favor of the plaintiffs, regulations could be added to the drug or its approval could be revoked. Harris also said Congress should pass a bill that would enshrine the right to abortion into law, a notion that is unlikely, with Republicans holding a slim majority in the U.S. House.


Ohio group spends $5 million on anti-abortion ads

Protect Women Ohio, a coalition of anti-abortion groups including Ohio Right to Life, Center for Christian Virtue and Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, plans to spend $5 million to fight a citizen-initiated proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution, Ohio Capital Journal reported. The group, a 501(c)(4) not required to make public its donors, released their first ad Wednesday after establishing itself in February. 

The narrator of the 30-second ad says that young women are being pushed to change their sex or get an abortion while framing the amendment as a parental rights issue. “There is absolutely nothing in the amendment that mentions or supersedes Ohio’s parental consent laws,” said Dr. Lauren Beene, executive director of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups behind the petition.


Montana senator urges top pharmacy chains to dispense abortion medication

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a Democrat, criticized Walgreens for stating it will not dispense mifepristone in the state, Daily Montanan reported Thursday. Tester’s letter to the company’s CEO puts him at odds with state Attorney General Austin Knudsen, one of 23 Republican attorneys general who threatened to sue the pharmacy if they applied for certification to dispense the drug. (In January, the FDA allowed pharmacies to apply for mifepristone certification.) Walgreens, caught up in the medication abortion battle, pointed blame at Montana’s law concerning the pills. 

But the Daily Montanan said the state’s Abortion Control Act does not severely restrict how abortion pills can be acquired or distributed. The law requires abortions to be provided by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. Abortion is broadly legal in Montana, and in 1999, the high court ruled abortion is protected under the state constitutional right to privacy.


THE PULL Commentary from Ohio

“Ohioans concerned about corruption in Ohio’s legislature and executive offices won’t find much comfort looking to the Ohio Supreme Court, which has now also been infected by favoritism for DeWine family friends and anti-abortion special interests.” – David DeWitt, Editor-in-chief  and columnist, Ohio Capital Journal


THE PULSE Reproductive rights news across the country

  • Florida’s anti-protest laws have made it harder for both anti-abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates to protest in the state Capitol Building. (Florida Phoenix.)  
  • A Nebraska senator proposed a 12-week abortion ban this week as an alternative to the six-week ban floating in the unicameral legislature. (Nebraska Examiner.) 
  • ICYMI: 14 Democratic governors sent a letter Tuesday to executives at six major pharmacies asking for clarification on mifepristone policies.
  • A bill in Tennessee, a state where all abortions are banned, that would allow a doctor to provide abortion care for medical emergencies passed in a key House Committee on Wednesday. (Tennessee Lookout.) 
  • The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s temporary block on the state’s trigger law. (The Bismarck Tribune.) 
  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, signed a bill into law Wednesday that will stop abortion clinics from renewing their licenses in May and ban the facilities from operating at all next year. (Associated Press.)

STATE BY STATE Abortion access in the U.S.


Track state-level developments on reproductive rights anytime at News From The States. Send tips and thoughts to ebrown@statesnewsroom.com, and follow her on Twitter @elishacbrown.

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