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Six-week ban signed, but future of abortion access in Florida remains uncertain

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that will ban virtually all abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy just hours after it passed off the House floor, but some things still need to happen before that ban can take effect.

The bill is effectively a trigger law, meaning it will automatically take effect only if the Florida Supreme Court rules the privacy clause in the state constitution does not protect abortion rights in Florida, reversing previous Supreme Court precedent.

Despite the uncertainty, lawmakers see the bill’s passage as either a major victory or a major defeat, depending on which side of the aisle they sit on.

The six-week ban would prohibit virtually all abortions once what is labeled as a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, with exceptions up to 15 weeks into pregnancy for victims of rape and incest.

The bill signing, which took place nearly one year to the day after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the 15-week ban into law, looked quite different than the public celebration seen in 2022.

Instead, the six-week ban was signed quietly in the Governor’s Office with a few dozen supporters and noticed with a tweet posted late Thursday night.

“He realizes that a six-week abortion ban is not popular across our country,” said State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville).

Nixon and State Representative Dean Black (R-Yulee) stand on opposite sides of the issue, but both expect it’s just a matter of time before the Florida Supreme Court greenlights the ban by ruling to uphold the state’s current 15-week ban.

“First of all, the makeup of the court is different and also, our understanding of the nature of life is different. We have a compelling state interest here. We mentioned earlier about the millions and millions, the tens of millions of children not being born because they’re being aborted and the state has an interest in preserving life,” said Black.

“Right now, we have a very conservative right-leaning supreme court. So, we’re worried that, you know, it will be upheld and that we will now be facing a six-week abortion ban. At the end of the day, this is going to cost lives. Right? Like having more restrictive abortions in states does not save lives, it actually causes lives to be lost,” said Nixon.

Kelly Flynn is President and CEO of Jacksonville-based abortion clinic A Woman’s Choice, which is a party in the suit challenging the 15-week ban.

She expects the case won’t likely be heard until June at the earliest and a ruling would come months after that.

She said in the meantime, women considering an abortion who may be in between the six and 15-week mark shouldn’t delay seeking care.

“You know, it could happen in the middle of the clinic day where suddenly we get the ruling,” said Flynn.

And while Flynn doesn’t know how the court will rule, she’s hoping the court will either throw out the 15-week ban entirely or possibly strike a middle ground by upholding the 15-week ban but blocking the six-week ban.

“We don’t even want to assume that at this point cause we have no reaction and no temperature check from the Florida justices,” said Flynn.

Until the ruling is handed down, the 15-week ban will remain the law of the land, but the future of abortion access in Florida will remain uncertain.

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