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KISSIMMEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Today Florida’s pro-life Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill prohibiting abortions in the Sunshine State after 15 weeks gestation. 

Expected to save thousands of Florida babies every year, HB 5, or the “Mortality Reduction Act,” is slated to take effect July 1, 2022 and will outlaw the killing of most unborn babies determined to have been conceived at least 15 weeks prior.

“We are here today to defend those who can’t defend themselves,” DeSantis said during the Thursday signing ceremony held at the Nacion de Fe church in Kissimmee, Florida. “And in just a minute I will be signing House Bill 5, which protects the rights of unborn children starting at 15 weeks. This is a time where these babies have beating hearts, they can move, they can taste, they can see, they can feel pain, they can suck their thumbs, and they have brainwaves. This will represent the most significant protections for life enacted in this state for a generation.”

During the ceremony DeSantis also spoke about the five late-term babies who were murdered via abortion before being found by pro-life activists in Washington, D.C. late last month. 

D.C. officials have refused to investigate the deaths of the children despite evidence they may have been the victims of illegal partial birth abortions or infanticide.

RELATED: Dead babies found in DC apartment may have been victims of infanticide following abortion attempts

“That is callous, that is wrong,” DeSantis said, thanking Daily Wire reporter Mary Margaret Olohan for her work exposing the gruesome murders of the unborn babies and adding, “We will not let that happen in the state of Florida.”

“The bill today will provide protections for unborn children from abortion when the child reaches 15 weeks of gestational age,” the Catholic father of three continued. “Of course, these are babies that have heartbeats and that can feel pain, and can move.”

According to DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year and potentially a strong contender for the U.S. presidency in 2024, the legislation “also expands fetal infant mortality review committees across the state which engage medical professionals and communities to review infant mortality cases.”

Florida’s 15-week abortion ban had been advanced along party lines in the state’s GOP-led legislature in the past months. It earned the backing of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

RELATED: DeSantis vows to sign Florida’s 15-week abortion ban ‘in short order’

The law was modeled after Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which is the subject of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case currently on the U.S. Supreme Court docket. 

A decision favorable to Mississippi could see the “constitutional right to abortion” overturned, sending the issue of abortion back to the states. A decision in Dobbs is expected by this summer.

National pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List has said Florida’s pro-life legislation will provide “the strongest protections for unborn children and their mothers in state history,” LifeSiteNews reported previously.

“At a time when pro-abortion extremists in Washington are pushing a deeply unpopular agenda of abortion on demand until the moment of birth, states like Florida are fighting back to assert the will of the people,” SBA List state policy director Sue Liebel said.

“This humane legislation would save more than 3,000 lives a year in Florida by limiting abortion at a point when science shows unborn babies can feel pain,” Liebel added.

“Floridians of all stripes agree this would be a significant step forward for the Sunshine State.”

The Catholic bishops of Florida have also welcomed the ban, describing it as “an incremental, yet important, step” towards the protection of innocent lives.

The law does not contain carve-outs for cases of rape or incest, but does contain an exception allowing unborn babies 15 weeks old or older to be aborted if “the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.”

Many pro-life advocates argue that there is never a circumstance in which abortion is medically necessary.

The bill also allows an exception if an unborn child is considered to have suffered a “fatal fetal abnormality,” which the bill describes as “a terminal condition that, in reasonable medical judgment, regardless of the provision of life-saving medical treatment, is incompatible with life outside the womb and will result in death upon birth or imminently thereafter.”

The signing of the 15-week abortion ban is the latest in a string of pro-family actions undertaken by the Sunshine State’s Catholic governor this week, including signing legislation to support foster parents and youth, and approving another bill earmarking almost $70 million to promote responsible fatherhood.

Earlier this week, a Florida judge upheld a 2015 pro-life law requiring women in the Sunshine State to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion, the latest move in a seven-year dispute about the controversial rule.