Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that would ban most abortions after six weeks in Florida, a move that will influence his likely 2024 presidential bid.
The governor said as early as March that he would sign the legislation pushed by the GOP-dominated Legislature, even as most public polls indicate that a ban on abortions at six weeks is unpopular in both political parties.
The Florida bill would ban abortions at six weeks, but create new exemptions for rape and incest up to 15 weeks into the pregnancy. The proposal does not change the existing exemptions for the life and health of the mother up to 15 weeks.
The governor’s signature came just hours after it was approved by the Legislature Thursday afternoon. But he did not publicly announce that he would. until after 11 pm.
The lack of fanfare around the legislation underscores just how complicated abortion policies are for Republicans after the 2022 midterms, when Democrats criticized the GOP on the issue nationally, and specifically for DeSantis as he weighs a run. 2024 presidential
The latest polls on the University of North Florida proposal at the end of February found that 75% of state residents are somewhat or strongly opposed to the six-week ban, including 61% of Republicans.
It is the latest move by Florida Republicans to reduce access to abortion in the state. Last year, DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that is currently before the Florida Supreme Court. The six-week ban will be on hold until the court rules on that proposal.
After the US Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that there was no constitutional right to abortion, Florida has become a go-to place for people from across the Southeast to get abortions, as other regional states flock to it. they banned.
Women seeking abortions in Florida from other states increased from 3,988 in 2020 to 6,708 in 2022, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
The fight over abortion will no doubt take center stage as Republican contenders in the presidential primaries try to wade through the murky political waters of the issue. Being against abortion is a must for any candidate trying to win a Republican presidential primary, but being seen as going too far can be toxic in a general election.
Florida’s proposed six-week ban quickly garnered the attention of the White House, a clear sign that President Joe Biden sees it as a useful political expedient against DeSantis, with whom he has been publicly feuding for months.
“The President and Vice President believe that women should be able to make health care decisions with their doctors and families, free from political interference,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement when she introduced herself. the bill in March. “They are committed to protecting access to reproductive care and continue to call on Congress to restore Roe v. Wade in federal law.»
Only two of the 28 Republicans in the Florida Senate voted against it. Both «no» votes are freshman lawmakers who flipped Biden’s legislative seats in 2020.
“I do not support this bill today, but I believe it will pass and become the law of this state,” said Republican state Sen. Alexis Calatyud, whose Miami seat Biden won with 54 percent of the vote in 2020. “And I think it will go a long way in changing hearts and minds influenced by a decade of anti-life culture.”
Supporters of former President Donald Trump see some capacity in trying to hang what they see as an unpopular bill around the neck of DeSantis, who is not expected to announce his candidacy until May or June if he runs.
“Ron DeSantis has tried to create an image of never going back,” said a former Trump adviser, invoking the name of a pro-DeSantis super PAC called “Never Back Down” that has so far reported raising $30 million. «Well, he’s definitely pregnant with this bill, and it’s already been six weeks, so maybe, ironically, he’s going to live off the consequences of his actions, too.» [Just double-checking you got this source-approved?]
For his part, Trump has remained mostly mum on the issue of abortion since announcing he would run again for president. Shortly after a midterm election cycle in which several of his handpicked US Senate candidates were defeated in key races, Trump blamed them for mishandling the «abortion issue.»
“It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans fell short of expectations in the midterms,” Trump posted on Truth Social in early January. «It was the ‘abortion issue,’ mishandled by many Republicans, especially those who steadfastly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest or Mother’s Life, that lost a large number of voters.»
Since then, however, Trump has avoided the issue, even after his four years in the White House saw a series of sweeping restrictions on abortion, including a ban on referrals by providers of federal family planning programs for abortions. . That was part of his stated effort to «defund» Planned Parenthood.
So far this year, however, he has ignored questions on the subject from reporters and generally tried to focus on other issues popular with Republican primary voters.
Other 2024 Republican contenders have taken various approaches to try to navigate questions about their position on abortion.
Former Trump Vice President Mike Pence, who is likely to be a 2024 candidate, is among the party’s most fervent anti-abortion politicians. He supports a federal ban on abortion.
Former UN ambassador from the Trump administration, Nikki Haley, who announced her candidacy in February, told NBC’s Today Show that she would not support a «total federal ban”, but would support a federal 15-week ban on abortion.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who announced a 2024 exploratory committee this week, ignored questions about his position on the federal abortion ban, but cosponsored anti-abortion legislation during his time in the US Senate. ., including a proposed 20-week ban sponsored by fellow South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.