The Florida House passed a bill early Thursday that would ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks—after the Arizona Senate and West Virginia House of Delegates did the same late Tuesday—as Republican state lawmakers rush to enact abortion restrictions ahead of the Supreme Court likely siding with Mississippi and upholding that state’s similar ban.
Anti-abortion activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the 49th annual March for Life … [+] rally on January 21 in Washington, DC.
The Florida bill passed in a 78-39 vote after nearly five and a half hours of debate on the House floor, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Florida currently allows abortions until 24 weeks into the pregnancy, but the bill would prohibit any abortions after 15 weeks except in the case of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities.
The Arizona Senate passed its abortion bill in a 15-13 party line vote, the Arizona Republic reports, voting to ban all abortions after 15 weeks except in cases of medical emergencies.
The bill does not provide exemptions for rape or incest, and would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after 15 weeks.
West Virginia House lawmakers approved their ban in a 81-18 vote, which allows exceptions only for medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities.
What To Watch For
The Florida Senate still has to approve the abortion ban, but the Republican-controlled chamber is likely to pass it, and it has already cleared a Senate committee in a 6-4 party line vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has also endorsed the bill, saying he considers the 15-week ban to be a “reasonable” restriction, and the Washington Post reports he could sign the bill into law as early as next week. The Arizona and West Virginia bills will still have to clear the Arizona House and West Virginia Senate, which are also controlled by Republicans and expected to pass the abortion bans.
What We Don’t Know
How the Supreme Court will rule—though they’re expected to soon uphold 15-week abortion bans like those now being passed. The Supreme Court is now deliberating the fate of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and whether states can more broadly restrict abortion even before the fetus is viable, which is now prohibited under the court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. Conservative justices signaled during oral arguments in the case that they’re likely to side with Mississippi, though it still remains unclear how far their ruling will go. The court could narrowly side with Mississippi and allow 15-week bans but not further restrictions—or it could fully overturn Roe v. Wade, paving the way for states to not just restrict abortion after a certain point, but ban it entirely.
Democratic lawmakers in all three states have heavily opposed the 15-week bans, which they say would disproportionately affect marginalized groups in the states by cutting off their access to care after 15 weeks, while wealthier residents could still access abortion by traveling out of state. “The reality is that we’re making life harder for the people that need the most help in our society,” Arizona state Sen. Martin Quezada said during debate on the Arizona bill. Florida state Rep. Robin Bartleman (D) also blasted the Florida bill’s lack of exemptions for rape or incest, saying Wednesday, “God forbid your 11 year old is raped and pregnant and you find out after 15 weeks.”
GOP state lawmakers have stepped up their efforts to enact new abortion restrictions in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Mississippi case—escalating what was already a proliferation of anti-abortion legislation, with the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute reporting 108 state-level abortion restrictions were passed in 2021 alone. The Washington Post reports many anti-abortion state legislators have zeroed in on 15-week bans as an alternative to more divisively banning abortion entirely, claiming the restriction is more “reasonable” because it only affects a minority of abortions performed. The 15-week bills also allow for the possibility that the Supreme Court could side with Mississippi without overturning Roe v. Wade entirely, which would still make stricter bans unlikely to hold up in court. While a growing number of lawmakers in GOP-led states—including Florida—have introduced bills that would ban nearly all abortions, mimicking a controversial law in Texas, the 15-week bans have been viewed as being more realistic to actually enact into law. “If they drop a bill so extreme and so crazy that it dominates the news for months, when they drop a 15-week ban, it does not look as extreme,” Annie Filkowski, policy director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, told the Post, saying the restriction instead “looks like a compromise.”
Florida House passes ban on abortions after 15 weeks (The Florida Times-Union)
Abortion ban after 15 weeks passed by West Virginia House (Associated Press)
Following lead of Mississippi, ban on late-term abortion passes Arizona Senate with Republican support (Arizona Republic)
Florida abortion ban bill nears House approval (WCTV)
Fla. Republicans ditch Texas-style abortion law for what they call a ‘generous’ 15-week ban, drawing criticism from all sides (Washington Post)