Tribune News Service

Victor McCleskey of New Port Richey, left, uses a ladder to look over a privacy fence outside of Bread and Roses Woman’s Health Center in Clearwater on Saturday. Less than 48 hours earlier, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban abortion at six weeks. Photo permission from Jefferee Woo/TNS.

Florida enacts Heartbeat Protection Act to ban abortions after six weeks

Senate Bill 300, named the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” makes all abortions after six weeks illegal with the exception of victims of rape, incest or human trafficking. The bill, which was signed into by Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 13, also implements a requirement that doctors are now only allowed to prescribe medications intended for use in a medical abortion in person, such as mifepristone, and will no longer be able to prescribe them through telehealth visits.

The bill was introduced and filed in the Florida Senate by Republican state Sen. Erin Grall and co-introduced by state Sens. Joe Gruters and Clay Yarborough on March 7. The bill was signed quietly and late at night, and went into effect on April 14.

“We are proud to support life and family in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I applaud the legislature for passing the Heartbeat Protection Act that expands pro-life protections and provides additional resources for young mothers and families.”

Prior to SB 300, HB 5, named “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality,” went into effect last year and stated that a physician couldn’t perform an abortion after the fetus has reached 15 weeks. HB 5 has a pending lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and several abortion providers before the Florida Supreme Court.

The 2022 law included exceptions with the approval of two physicians. One was if the pregnant person’s life was at risk or if it would harm a major bodily function. The second exception was if the fetus would not survive shortly after birth.

One of the criticisms of the law is its exclusion of exceptions for cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. SB 300 carries over much of the same things as HB 5 but now includes exceptions to allow abortions in the case of rape, incest or human trafficking. This new exception is only allowed up to 15 weeks of pregnancy and physicians are required to report known or suspected human trafficking of adults to local law enforcement and rape or human trafficking involving a minor to the central abuse hotline. Pregnant people who were raped are required by SB 300 to come forward and file a police report if they wish to seek an abortion.

I don’t think that it’s a fair and productive solution as most women aren’t even aware they are pregnant until after the 6 week mark. By banning abortion and making it mandatory to get a medical abortion in person, Florida is making it more likely for women to harm themselves accidentally for trying to get rid of the fetus themselves.

— junior Natalia Bustamante

The Florida Legislature introduced SB 300 in response to the overturning of the Supreme Court decision for Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark Supreme Court case where the court ruled that Texas abortion restrictions were unconstitutional because the right to privacy in the 14th Amendment protects a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

However, Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022 when the Supreme Court ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, upheld a 2018 Mississippi law that made abortions performed after 15 weeks illegal, unless there was a medical emergency or fatal fetal abnormality. The overturning of Roe v. Wade puts the decision on how to regulate abortions back in the hands of the state governments.

Around campus, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have varying opinions on the matter. Female students are most vocal in their activism against the law, as many critics argue that it takes away the choices about one’s own body and healthcare decisions.

“I think that this resolution was pretty alarming as pregnancy and abortion are a major decision for a woman and for it to become such a large political decision to delegate a women’s choice can be pretty upsetting,” junior Sachi Parmar said. “I also think the resolution is unrealistic as most women don’t find out they are pregnant until the first 5-6 weeks and to book an abortion can be a long wait, so essentially, women have very limited options now.”

Aside from students, activists and Florida citizens protested against the decision, some even in South Florida, to demonstrate that the law “goes against women’s rights and health care.” This reflects the national Women’s March events that occurred earlier this year in retaliation against the growing decisions against abortions.

“I think it shouldn’t be illegal,” sophomore Jennifer Guo said. “You’re the one who decided to create the baby, so technically it is your own right if you still want it or not and not be put in jail after deciding you aren’t ready for a baby yet.”

Amongst the controversy of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and countless legislation being made in Republican-dominated states restricting abortion rights, there are still mixed opinions on the bans, and Florida isn’t any different.

The ALCU and Planned Parenthood are currently gathering signatures to put the right to an abortion on the 2024 ballot. If passed with 60% of a vote, the right to an abortion would be placed in the Florida Constitution and would render SB 300 unconstitutional and invalid. Voters can sign the petition and mail it in.


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