Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that would ban most abortions in the state after six weeks, according to a release from the governor’s office late Thursday night.
The six-week ban would not go into effect until the state Supreme Court overturns its previous precedent on abortion.
“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in the release.
The law would make Florida one of the most restrictive states in the country to obtain an abortion and follows moves by other Republican-led states to swiftly curb the procedure since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. The measure passed the state Senate on April 3 and the Florida House on Thursday before heading to DeSantis’ desk for his signature.
Under the law, most abortions in Florida would be banned after six weeks. Opponents of the legislation have argued that six weeks is before many women know that they are pregnant.
“Let’s be clear about the silent part: You just don’t want women to have choice,” House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat, said Thursday during debate on the bill.
Victims of rape, incest and human trafficking could obtain an abortion up to 15 weeks into a pregnancy, under the legislation, if the woman provides a restraining order, police report, medical record or other evidence.
The bill would also ban doctors from prescribing an abortion via telehealth and require medication for abortion be dispensed by a physician, not by mail.
Supporters of the bill said they were protecting life.
“A woman’s right to choose, I’ve heard people talk about that. Well, that right to choose begins before you have sex,” state Rep. Kiyan Michael, a Jacksonville Republican, said Thursday. “It should not be after you have sex. “
Debate on Thursday began shortly after 9 a.m. and lasted for more than seven hours as Democrats, who are firmly in the minority in Florida’s legislature, filed dozens of amendments intended to blunt the bill’s impact and to protest the likely end of tens of thousands of legal abortions in the state each year. Each amendment failed, and Republicans flexed their supermajority to pass the bill on a 70-40 vote.
Following the bill’s passage by the state Senate last week, demonstrations broke out at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, leading to the arrest of Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book.
Thursday’s vote comes as the national debate on abortion has once again intensified after a Texas judge ordered the suspension of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a medication abortion drug. A federal appeals court has frozen parts of the order, and the Department of Justice is asking the US Supreme Court to intervene in the dispute. The Florida vote also follows a decisive victory by a liberal candidate in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race earlier this month in which the future of abortion access took center stage and mobilized Democratic turnout.
Though DeSantis has signaled his support for further restrictions on abortion in Florida, the typically outspoken governor has remained uncharacteristically reserved about where he thinks lawmakers should draw the line. Asked at a March news conference if he supported exemptions for rape and incest until 15 weeks, DeSantis called it “sensible” and said he would “welcome pro-life legislation,” but quickly pivoted to another topic.
As a candidate for governor in 2018, DeSantis indicated he would support legislation that prohibits abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law last year, which did not include exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. Under the law, a pregnancy cannot be terminated after 15 weeks unless the mother is at serious risk or a fatal fetal abnormality is detected. Two physicians must confirm the diagnosis in writing.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups sued to overturn the law. The case is currently before the Florida Supreme Court, which declined to block the law in the meantime.
For decades, courts in Florida have blocked legislative attempts to restrict abortion in the state. The state Supreme Court in 1989 determined that a privacy clause in the state constitution “is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision of whether or not to continue her pregnancy.”
Those protections for years made Florida a sanctuary for women seeking abortions throughout the South as neighboring states over time moved to restrict the procedure. In 2020, Florida saw 19.1 legal abortions per 1,000 women, the highest rate of any state in the country.
However, the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court has shifted considerably in recent years, and it is now heavily shaped by DeSantis’ conservative influence. He appointed four of the six sitting justices and will name a fifth to succeed Justice Ricky Polston, who resigned last month.
The state does not publish data on the number of pregnancies terminated during the first six weeks. There were more than 82,000 abortions in Florida in 2022, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, and the overwhelming majority took place during the first trimester.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.