Politico

Thousands travel to Florida for abortions. The Supreme Court’s ruling could change that.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will dramatically alter the landscape for people seeking abortions in Florida, a Republican-leaning state that has one of the nation’s highest rates of abortion in the country.

Florida, the third most populous state, has for decades protected the right to get abortions through Roe and a privacy amendment in the state Constitution that prevents undue government intrusion into people’s private lives. People living in states where abortions are difficult to access — especially from neighboring Georgia and Alabama — have for years traveled to Florida to undergo the procedure.

Last year, more than 79,000 women received abortions in Florida at one of the 55 licensed providers. That includes 4,873 women who resided outside of Florida, according to a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration report.

This will likely change.

Florida lawmakers this year approved a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, with no exemptions for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking. The ban, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and set to go into effect on July 1, is modeled after Mississippi’s 15-week ban that was at the center of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Arizona, Kentucky, West Virginia and a handful of other states also followed Mississippi’s lead.

But Florida’s situation is nuanced. While Republicans control the state government and Legislature, Florida has the third highest rate of abortion in America after New York and Illinois. It’s also the only state in the Southeast where a majority say they want to keep abortion legal — a fact not lost on leading Republicans lawmakers and DeSantis, who have generally withheld commenting in depth on the effects of the Supreme Court dismantling Roe and have not yet publicly endorsed the idea of banning all abortions.

Here’s how the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will affect Florida:

Florida’s 15-week ban

On April 14, DeSantis signed into law a bill prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. Previous state law restricted abortions after 24 weeks. While 94 percent of abortions in Florida are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the law nonetheless represents the most restrictive abortion law in the state’s history.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature spent months crafting the bill and modeled it after Mississippi’s law, which the high court upheld in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. That ruling will make any legal challenges to Florida’s law in federal court all but impossible to win.

The ACLU has already sued to block the Florida ban, arguing that privacy protections enshrined in the state Constitution the right to abortion by barring government intrusion into people’s lives. The Florida Supreme Court three decades ago cited the privacy protection when it overturned a state law requiring minors to get parental consent for abortions.

But the state Supreme Court, reshaped by DeSantis, is far more conservative now than when it overturned the parental permission case. Court watchers, abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion rights groups suspect the current state Supreme Court could interpret the privacy clause in a different way, meaning that Florida’s biggest firewall against abortion restrictions could fall.

Momentum building for more restrictions

Florida Republicans are now openly discussing several possibilities, including pushing legislation to completely ban abortions. State Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) in May said he would sponsor legislation next year that would ban all abortions. Barnaby, however, had also sought legislation in 2022 that would prohibit abortions after 6 weeks that few lawmakers supported. He is facing a primary against a fellow House Republican in August.

But if anti-abortion Florida legislators gain enough supporters, they may be successful in limiting protections. Incoming Florida House and Senate leaders said in interviews recently that they won’t attempt to whip support for a complete abortion ban but are open to it and will wait to see what the majority of lawmakers want.

Incoming Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, for example, said in May when asked about a total ban that “we give the opportunity for a bill to be heard in committee and then see what happens.”

“There’s always a chance,” she said.

And incoming House Speaker Paul Renner, who is staunchly anti-abortion rights, said he would follow the will of the 160-member state Legislature.

“I represent the same number of people that my colleagues in other districts represent, who are going to have their voices heard,” he said. “That’s the difference with Roe — if you disagreed with the ruling your voice was silent.”

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