The draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggests that conservatives on the court have the votes to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a pregnant person’s right to an abortion.
It is not known when the final ruling will be issued, or how similar it will look to the draft. But Florida’s own abortion laws will soon change, regardless of what the nation’s highest court does.
Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect July 1.
Here’s a look at how Florida’s legal landscape on abortions stands now and what will change:
At what point during a pregnancy is abortion currently legal in Florida?
Florida law allows abortion until the third trimester — about 24 weeks of pregnancy. That is around the time when a baby begins to become viable outside the womb. However, state law allows third-trimester abortions in cases in which the pregnant person’s life could be at risk, or in which the pregnant person risks “irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”
What will change under the new 15-week abortion ban passed by Florida lawmakers?
Beginning July 1, Florida will have the state’s strictest ban on abortions in the post Roe v. Wade era. Most abortions will only be legal if performed in the first 15 weeks of a pregnancy. The new law includes exceptions for people whose health is threatened by the pregnancy or if their baby has a “fatal fetal abnormality.” Florida’s law was based on the Mississippi law that is the subject of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision published by Politico.
Will the new Florida law make exceptions for pregnancies arising from rape, incest or human trafficking?
No. If the abortion is not performed in the first 15 weeks, the baby must be carried to term.
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Will the new law allow a pregnancy to be terminated for medical reasons, to prevent the patient from suffering fatal complications? What if it is a nonviable pregnancy?
Yes. The new law does permit abortions after 15 weeks if carrying the pregnancy to term would put the pregnant person’s life at risk or cause irreversible physical impairment. The pregnancy can also be terminated if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.
In either case, two physicians must certify the decision in writing — though one physician can certify the procedure if no other doctor is available.
Will minors be able to get an abortion?
Yes. The new law does not impose any new age restrictions on abortion access. However, as of June 2020, Florida minors are required to have consent from a parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy. A minor can get the requirement waived if a judge rules that they are “sufficiently mature” to make the decision by themselves.
How many abortions are performed in Florida and how many would be affected by the new law?
Florida reported that about 75,000 abortions were performed in 2021. About 4,500 abortions were performed in the second trimester, after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Of those second-trimester abortions, three were performed in cases of incest and 14 were performed in cases of rape. Those must all be carried to term after 15 weeks under the new law.
State data doesn’t specify when during a trimester an abortion is performed, so it’s unclear how many abortions would be affected by the 15-week ban.
Will medication abortion options still be allowed in Florida under the new law?
Medication abortions would still be available but subject to the 15-week ban.
Using medication to induce abortion is an increasingly popular option for people who are up to 10 weeks pregnant. As of 2020, medical abortion accounted for the majority of all U.S. abortions, according to a survey conducted by the Guttmacher Institute.
In Florida, only licensed physicians can prescribe the two-part treatment, and the first pill has to be taken in a clinic or hospital. The second medication can be taken at home. Many clinics require that patients schedule a follow-up appointment two weeks later. The new law also requires abortion providers to count the number of medicine-induced abortions each month and report that number to the state.
How do medication abortions work?
The treatment consists of two medications taken over 48 hours. The first medication, mifepristone, terminates the pregnancy and the second, misoprostol, helps the body expel it.
A medication abortion doesn’t require surgery or anesthesia and can be safely done in a clinic, doctor’s office, or at home with a follow-up appointment one to two weeks later, according to federal health officials.
The treatment is only an option in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and cannot be performed on patients who have an intrauterine device (IUD), severe heart or lung disease, bleeding disorders, or take blood thinners or certain types of steroid medications.
Can Florida patients receive abortion pills prescribed remotely by out-of-state doctors under the new law?
No. Under state law, the prescribing physician must meet with the patient in person at least 24 hours before the treatment.
Federal regulators as of December relaxed restrictions on medication abortions, allowing doctors to prescribe abortion medications online or over the phone and pharmacies to send the medication through the mail.
Although Florida law doesn’t ban telehealth prescriptions outright, the in-person requirement means they aren’t an option for Florida residents seeking an abortion.
Some groups, like Aid Access, have sought to circumvent state law by using physicians and pharmacies located abroad, outside U.S. legal jurisdiction.
What happens to abortions in Florida if the U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion becomes legal precedent?
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, that would return control of the availability of abortions to state government. Florida’s 15-week ban would become law on July 1 — but the Legislature could pass more restrictions later this year or next.
DeSantis or legislators could call a special session to pass even stricter limits, or a total ban on abortions. They also could decide to wait until the 2023 legislative session.
For now, Florida is not one of 13 states that have passed so-called trigger laws, which put bans or limits on abortion that go into effect if Roe v. Wade is struck down.