Gov. Ron DeSantis signs 6-week abortion ban late Thursday night

His office sent out the news release after 11 p.m.
In this file photo, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a press conference at Christopher Columbus High School March 27 in Miami.
In this file photo, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a press conference at Christopher Columbus High School March 27 in Miami. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]
Published April 14|Updated April 14

Late Thursday night, in a private ceremony in his office, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Though the bill has been signed, it has not yet taken effect. Whether it will depends on the outcome of a Florida Supreme Court ruling advocates expect later this year on the state’s 15-week abortion ban, which passed last year.

DeSantis’ office announced the signing in a highly unusual news release sent out after 11 p.m., then updated his schedule to say the ceremony happened at 10:45 p.m.

Just hours before, the Florida Legislature sent the bill to his desk after it was passed by the Florida House on a 70-40 vote, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

Related: 7 things to know about Florida’s 6-week abortion ban bill

The legislation prohibits abortion in most cases after six weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking. In those cases, women with documentation showing evidence of the crime may have abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Because many people don’t realize they are pregnant before six weeks, the measure could effectively eliminate most abortions in Florida if it is allowed to take effect. The six-week threshold starts at the date of the person’s last menstrual period.

A photo released by the governor’s office showed a few dozen supporters were in his office for the signing, including House Speaker Paul Renner and state Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Earlier Thursday evening, DeSantis was in Ohio delivering a speech at the Butler County GOP Lincoln Day dinner, as part of his nationwide tour testing the waters for a potential presidential run. According to the local party’s website, some of the tables closest to DeSantis were selling for $10,000 to $15,000.

Pro-life groups were quick to applaud DeSantis for signing the legislation, while opponents seemed shocked at the bill’s quick turn-around.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, called it an “enormous victory in the battle for human rights” and applauded that Florida would no longer be “an abortion destination.”

But the cutoff to women in the broader South was a point of criticism from the White House. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday, before the bill was signed, said in a statement that “this ban would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in abortion-banning states throughout the South, many of whom have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care.”

The number of non-Florida residents coming to Florida for an abortion increased by nearly 38% from 2021 to 2022, a year where the Supreme Court case protecting access to an abortion across the nation was overturned and many states, particularly in the South, blocked abortion access altogether.

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Along with prohibiting most abortions, the legislation also prohibits state funds from being used to pay for someone’s travel out of state for an abortion in most cases. The law also requires that medication abortion be dispensed in-person by a physician, not by mail.

The bill also allocates $25 million in funding for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, which has centers that aim to discourage people from getting abortions — a nearly $20 million dollar boost from their current appropriation.

The measure sets aside $5 million for the Department of Health’s family planning program, which includes access to contraceptives.

Paul Flemming, a spokesperson for the Florida Supreme Court, said there is no hard schedule for when the court might issue its opinion on the 15-week lawsuit. The petitioners, including Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, have a reply brief due to be filed May 1.

If the court upholds the 15-week cutoff, or if they rule that Florida’s constitutional right to privacy does not protect access to an abortion, the six-week ban will take effect 30 days after the deciding point.

• • •

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