Roe v. Wade overturned: What’s next for Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t mean abortion will be illegal across the country, rather states will now be able to decide for themselves what limitations to put on abortion.

However, 13 states have trigger laws on the books that will immediately ban abortion because of Friday’s opinion.

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Florida and Georgia don’t have trigger laws banning abortion entirely, but the ruling will clear a path for new abortion restrictions to take effect.

Georgia’s law, which is the more restrictive of the two, bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six weeks.

It was passed in 2019, but quickly put on hold by the courts pending the Supreme Court’s opinion on Mississippi’s 15-week ban.

Georgia State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), who sponsored Georgia’s LIFE Act, anticipates the law will be permitted to take effect in the coming days.

“We believe that the heartbeat is a fair common-sense middle ground,” said Setzler.

Under Georgia law, a fetus is granted full legal protection when a heartbeat can be detected, meaning expecting mothers are entitled to child support and tax write-offs.

Read: What overturning Roe v. Wade means for people in Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia

There is an exemption for rape victims, who can obtain the procedure as late as 20 weeks of gestation.

There’s also an exception if the mother’s life is at risk.

Doctors who perform abortions deemed illegal by the law will be conducting a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and would be exposed to civil suits by the woman the procedure is performed on.

“I think finally the common sense of citizens can take over and treat those helpless small living distinct children fairly,” said Setzler.

In Florida, a new abortion restriction is set to take effect on July 1.

It bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks.

“What happened today is actually an end to women’s’ freedom,” said State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville).

Nixon argues Florida’s new law will disproportionately impact women of color.

“Oftentimes, being pregnant is a death sentence for Black women. We have some of the highest maternal morbidity (mortality) rates,” said Nixon.

One of the biggest criticisms of Florida’s law has been the lack of any exemption for rape and incest.

State Rep. Randy Fine, who co-sponsored the bill, argues that the exemptions were unnecessary.

“We do have a rape exemption. It’s called the first 15 weeks,” said Fine.

Read: Senate, House pass first gun legislation in decades; here’s what’s in it

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has Democrats across the country sounding off fears that Republicans in states like Florida and Georgia will be emboldened to pass even more restrictive laws than are already on the books.

“And we must be sure that Republicans at every level of government feel the consequences of stripping away our rights and our freedoms,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando).

But Fine is skeptical abortion access will be on top of voters’ minds come the November election.

“I think this election will be fundamentally about the Biden presidency, with inflation, food prices and all of the other disasters that we’ve seen,” said Fine.

A recent poll by USA Today found abortion to be the number one issue for less than 15% of voters.

Sixty-six percent of respondents also said the state of the economy was more important to their vote than abortion.

Yet, the same poll found 61% of voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade and 51% said there should be one national policy regulating abortion access.

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