Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning abortion after six weeks in the dead of night, possibly because he knew just how unpopular the move was, even among his own base.
The Florida governor signed the bill late Thursday night with little fanfare. The chilling photo of the event shows him surrounded by mostly women, some of whom brought their children.
The measure prohibits abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant. It makes exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to save the life of the pregnant person. However, two doctors have to agree the abortion was “necessary,” and the patient “must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation proving” they were the victim of rape or incest.
The law will also lower the amount of money that the state Department of Health is required to spend on pregnancy and parental support services, which include pregnancy testing, counseling, prenatal classes, adoption education, and material aid such as diapers and formula. People in Florida can currently receive such support for up to a year after the child is born. The new law removes that element, and will allow state funds to go to anti-abortion “clinics.” Abortion rights advocates regularly point out that states with some of the toughest abortion laws often fail to set up social welfare systems to support children after they are born.
The measure also removes the clause that specifically states abortion regulations “may not impose an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s freedom to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy,” specifically stripping away people’s autonomy.
DeSantis, who is currently on a book tour, is widely expected to announce he’s running for president. The photo of him signing the bill could haunt him for the entirety of his campaign. Republicans have long targeted abortion, but since Roe v. Wade was overturned, they have tried to stay away from the issue. Last year, when Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a federal 15-week abortion ban just before the midterms, many of his colleagues slammed the move. The bill never made it to the Senate floor.
DeSantis’s public support for a six-week ban is also more extreme than several other Republican 2024 hopefuls. Nikki Haley has changed how she speaks about abortion, adopting a waffle-y stance designed not to alienate anyone. She maintains she is “pro-life” but doesn’t “judge anyone who is pro-choice.” Tim Scott struggled to form a coherent sentence about abortion rights on Thursday but ultimately said he supports a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks and would consider a ban at 15 weeks.
DeSantis’s move could even hurt him at home. The vast majority of Floridians, 64 percent, think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a study released in February by the Public Religion Research Institute. And as shown by a recent landslide Democratic victory in Wisconsin, abortion wins elections.
For now, Florida still allows abortion up to 15 weeks, which has made it a major hub for people traveling out of their home state for the procedure. That law is currently being challenged in the state Supreme Court. The six-week ban will only take effect if the conservative-controlled court upholds the current law. If the new law goes into effect, it will have a significant negative effect across the rest of the South. Many of Florida’s neighbors imposed harsher restrictions on the procedure since Roe was overturned.
But regardless of how it plays out in the courts, DeSantis has publicly endorsed a very unpopular position. Every time an abortion-related issue has been on the ballot, the people vote in favor of protecting reproductive rights, not taking them away. Signing the six-week ban into law will haunt DeSantis for the rest of his political career.