TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) — Florida’s Republican-led legislature on Thursday approved a heartbeat bill to effectively ban nearly all abortions in the Sunshine State after about six weeks’ gestation. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law Thursday night, hours after it cleared the state House.
The approval comes after Florida House greenlit the measure in a 70-40 vote after shooting down numerous Democrat-proposed amendments during hours of debate. The state Senate previously voted 26-13 on April 3 to pass its version of the bill, SB 300, known as the “Heartbeat Protection Act.”
“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a press release following the signing of the law.
Prior to signing the bill Thursday night, DeSantis had repeatedly committed to signing pro-life laws and has specifically affirmed that he would sign a heartbeat bill if it landed on his desk.
The legislation will make it illegal to deliberately kill an unborn baby after his heartbeat can be detected, which is usually about six weeks’ gestation. Since many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, the bill will prohibit a huge number of abortions in the state. However, it does not directly protect unborn babies who do not yet have a heartbeat.
The measure blocks abortionists from using telehealth services to facilitate chemical abortions remotely and allocate $30 million to bolster state support for families, providing “counseling or mentoring services as well as providing non-medical material assistance to families such as car seats, cribs, clothing, formula, and diapers.”
Critics have decried the legislation as a near-total abortion ban, something that will establish Florida as among the most pro-life states in the nation. However, carve-outs would still allow for abortions to save the life of the mother (something pro-lifers say is never truly necessary), and permit abortions up to 15 weeks in cases of rape, incest, or human trafficking, if the pregnant mom can provide necessary documentation e.g. a police report. Chemical abortions would remain legal in the state if dispensed in person or by a licensed physician, according to the AP.
While abortion proponents say the measure is too strict, pro-lifers are concerned it doesn’t go far enough to protect the preborn.
In an April 14 press release shared with LifeSiteNews, Florida Voice for the Unborn Founder and Executive Director Andrew Shirvell, J.D., argued the law falls short.
“The newly-enacted Heartbeat Bill, if and when it goes into effect, does not go far enough in protecting innocent lives because it arbitrarily and capriciously deems many unborn children unworthy of legal protections,” he said.
“The fact is, the Heartbeat Bill will not make Florida abortion-free,” Shirvell continued. “The majority of Florida’s abortion facilities will likely continue to operate and kill tens of thousands of innocent unborn children on our state’s soil. Because of that undeniable reality, Florida Voice for the Unborn will also continue to relentlessly push for full legislative protections for all of Florida’s unborn children.”
However, Florida Right to Life President Lynda Bell told LifeSiteNews Friday her organization is “very excited” about the new measure, which has “been a long time coming.”
“This is truly an historic day in Florida,” Bell said, noting that the bill represents the success of her organization’s work in the pro-life space since 1971. “This will really tackle the overwhelming majority of abortions that are taking place, and it virtually stops ‘abortion tourism’ in Florida. So, this is something that we can all collectively be thrilled about.”
“This bill is going to save a lot of lives,” she said.
Despite its exceptions, the proposed legislation has the potential to drastically reduce the number of abortions committed in Florida, which has seen a recent uptick in abortions as neighboring states implement broad legislation to protect the unborn. According to one analysis, the number of births following passage of Texas’ similar heartbeat law increased by 5,000 compared with the same timeframe the previous year.
Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, who brought the Florida measure to the state House, said the bill provides an “opportunity to lead the national debate about the importance of protecting life and giving every child the opportunity to be born and find his or her purpose.”
Though Gov. DeSantis signed the measure into law, it won’t take effect until a final decision is rendered in an ongoing case concerning the state’s current 15-week abortion ban.
Thanks to a decades-old state Supreme Court ruling, Florida currently recognizes a “right to abortion” under the state constitution’s privacy amendment, effectively preventing the passage of meaningful statewide laws protecting the unborn.
However, Florida’s Supreme Court may now be in a position to overrule its 1989 decision, thanks to DeSantis’ conservative judicial appointments and the U.S. Supreme Court’s June overthrow of Roe v. Wade, which had established a federal “right to abortion” in all 50 states.
In January, Florida’s Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the state’s 15-week ban, paving a way for the rollback of the statewide “right to abortion” and changing the trajectory of pro-life legislation in Florida. The Court has allowed the state to continue enforcing the law for now, at least until it reaches a final verdict.
Florida’s new heartbeat law is slated to take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court affirms that such legislation does not violate the state constitution.
The moves to expand protections for unborn babies in Florida come as DeSantis is widely anticipated to announce a presidential run after the end of his state’s current legislative session in May.
This article was last updated April 15, 2023.