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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign rally at the Cheyenne Saloon on November 7, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images

This article has been updated following publication to provide further clarity regarding the ACHA data.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Despite its reputation as a “right-wing paradise,” Florida recorded a 14-year-high of over 82,000 abortions in 2022, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a grassroots pro-life group is warning.

The group’s leader is nonetheless hopeful that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ strong popularity among his conservative base and apparent eye on national leadership could provide the crucial opportunity to get strong pro-life laws enacted in 2023.

Tallahassee-based grassroots lobbying group Florida Voice for the Unborn flagged the rising abortion rate in a February 15 press release.

In the statement, the group pointed out that Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA) reported February 3 that 82,192 abortions were performed in the state the year of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June 24 reversal of Roe v. Wade.

That’s compared with 79,817 abortions reported in 2021 and 74,868 in 2020.

Earlier reports of declining abortion rates weren’t based on up-to-date data

Florida Voice for the Unborn argued that previous reports suggesting that the state’s abortion numbers had declined by 14.5% had relied on early data that weren’t representative of the Sunshine State’s true abortion numbers.

The ACHA has yet to release its final statistics for 2022, suggesting the final tally for the year could be even higher. On December 2, the agency reported that just 68,217 abortions had been committed in the state last year, suggesting that abortion rates had ticked down. That wasn’t the final report, though. In its February 3 update, the ACHA reported that that number was up to 82,192. 

As noted by Florida’s Voice, the ACHA’s “Yearly reports encompassing abortions through the entire year are typically not compiled until well into the next year.” Abortion facilities must submit their monthly reports “within 30 days following the preceding month,” according to the agency’s rules.

For reference, the final ACHA numbers for 2021 weren’t completed until May, 2022. The numbers for 2020 were compiled in March, 2021.

Florida’s abortion regulations are looser than those of many neighboring states

In a phone conversation February 17, Florida Voice for the Unborn founder and executive director Andrew Shirvell, J.D. told LifeSiteNews that Florida’s 1989 state Supreme Court decision declaring that Florida women had a “right to abortion” under the state constitution’s privacy amendment has formed the basis for the Sunshine State’s abortion policy to date.

While Gov. DeSantis has helped make the Supreme Court more conservative with his judicial appointments, Shirvell said it has been difficult to get a law before the court to successfully challenge the erroneous 1989 decision.

“A lot of that has to do with, unfortunately, Gov. DeSantis’ lack of leadership, lack of prioritization of defending the unborn in the legislature, and we’ve had very weak legislative leaders on these issues,” he contended. “All that has culminated in the place we’re in today, which is: abortion numbers are rising, even though Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and our state has sadly become, you know, an abortion destination.”

Florida’s rising abortion numbers contrast with the strong pro-life actions taken by many neighboring southern states.

Georgia bans abortion as soon as a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, which is usually about six weeks’ gestation. In nearby Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, abortion is now a criminal offense throughout pregnancy. South Carolina, meanwhile, allows abortion up to 22 weeks after the reversal of its heartbeat bill, and North Carolina allows abortion on demand up to 20 weeks.

Thus, while tougher than the laws currently on the books in the Carolinas, Florida’s 15-week abortion ban falls far short of the life-saving rigor of many of its Republican neighbors.

That comparative laxity could be drawing abortion-seeking women from out of state to travel to Florida for abortions, just as they would to far-left states like California and New York that openly advertise themselves as abortion sanctuaries.

Over 6,700 out-of-state women obtained abortions in Florida in 2022

The higher number of abortions in 2022 comes as the state has seen an historic overall population increase, but Florida residents aren’t the only ones obtaining abortions in the Sunshine State.

According to data from ACHA, 6,708 of the abortions committed in Florida in 2022 were performed on mothers who came from out of state, compared with 4,873 in 2021 and 3,988 in 2020.

“In the year that Roe v. Wade was overturned, it is outrageous that Florida has transformed into an abortion destination state,” Shirvell said in his group’s Wednesday press release. “Even more appalling, however, is that unlike the other states with exceptionally high abortion numbers, such as California and New York, Florida is led by pro-life Governor Ron DeSantis, who has a pro-life supermajority Legislature.”

Shirvell argued that Gov. DeSantis, who many see as a strong contender for the U.S. presidency in 2024 after earning widespread support among conservatives for fighting liberty-crushing COVID-19 measures, backing law enforcement, limiting abortion, and working to uproot radical ideologies from the classroom, has “lacked the political courage to stop the record amount of bloodshed that has repeatedly occurred on his watch here in the ‘Red’ state of Florida.”

While 82,192 abortions is the highest Florida has recorded in recent years and coincides with the elimination of the federal “right to abortion,” it’s not a record for the state.

Florida tallied its all-time high of 95,586 abortions in 2006 per the CDC. In a correction to its February 15 press release, Florida Voice for the Unborn clarified that the state’s 2022 numbers aren’t a record but do represent a 14-year-high.

“We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of innocent preborn babies being violently ripped apart and disposed of like garbage every single day here in Florida,” Shirvell said. “And, quite frankly, by his stubborn lack of meaningful action since the formal fall of Roe v. Wade last June 24th, Governor DeSantis seems intentionally indifferent to the horrendous plight of unborn children in his so-called ‘Free State of Florida.’”

LifeSiteNews has reached out multiple times to Gov. DeSantis’ office to obtain its reaction to Florida Voice for the Unborn’s report and the recently released abortion numbers. This article will be updated if response is provided.

DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban last year and has promised to sign more pro-life legislation

In a previous statement to LifeSiteNews, deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern backed up DeSantis’ February 1 comments affirming that he would sign a bill banning abortions at six weeks if such a bill were to land on his desk.

The statement also directed LifeSite to the governor’s similar response during a December press conference. Asked about whether he would sign a potential heartbeat bill, the governor said, “I’m willing to sign great [pro]-life legislation. That’s what I’ve always said I would do.”

According to DeSantis’ office, “The Declaration of Independence promises three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and we stand for all of them.”

READ: DeSantis’ office assures further protections for the unborn, rebukes media claims of abortion silence

The success of the state’s current 15-week abortion ban is seen by the DeSantis administration as a crucial hurdle to clear before it can pursue further pro-life action.

Signed into law in April 2022, the measure has been beset by court challenges. In July, the governor’s office told LifeSiteNews that the “pending state legal battle must necessarily be resolved before future legislative action can occur.”

The state Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of the 15-week ban on January 23.

Shirvell argued, however, that the Florida governor and legislature aren’t doing enough.

He told LifeSiteNews on Friday that had DeSantis and the GOP-dominated legislature been “more proactive” and not “dragged its feet” ahead of the rollback of Roe, it could have been positioned to enact tougher pro-life laws upon Roe v. Wade’s fall rather than waiting on the state Supreme Court to rule on its 15-week ban months later, in 2023.

In a post-Roe America, Florida doesn’t need ‘half measures’

In his press release, Shirvell argued that Florida need not settle for “[h]alf measures” like a heartbeat bill. “Unborn children in Florida have waited for justice for far too long.”

“Just as in Texas, every single abortion facility in Florida must be permanently shut-down [sic].” he said.

Shirvell told LifeSiteNews on Friday that his group and other grassroots pro-life organizations within the state are pushing for a “trigger law” during the upcoming special legislative session that would work to ban all abortions within 30 days after the state Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the 15-week ban.

“That’s forward-thinking,” he said, arguing that the governor and legislature have failed to prioritize the pro-life issue in the state. “We’re going to keep pressing until we get full protections [for the unborn], but it’s very frustrating here in Florida.”

Shirvell told LifeSite that his group sees this year as a key time to push the Florida government toward better pro-life laws.

“We are putting the gas at full-throttle because this is the window of opportunity,” he said, pointing to “the super-majority pro-life legislature and a governor who is at the peak … of his power with a 19-point re-election victory and a mandate from the people” as well as apparent “national aspirations.”

“We have to strike while the iron is hot,” he said, vowing to continue fighting on behalf of the preborn.