Abortions in Florida: Now that Roe v. Wade is gone, here's what's legal and what's not
- UPDATE: FDA rules abortion pills may be dispensed in pharmacies
On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that constitutionally established the right to abortion.
That passed abortion laws to the states, where Republican lawmakers quickly began to ban abortion in about half of them while some Democratic-led states worked to reinforce protections for the procedure. Access to abortion, in other words, now depends almost entirely on where you live.
What does that mean to Floridians?
In April of that year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state's most restrictive abortion regulations since Roe v. Wade, banning nearly all abortions in Florida after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The law went into effect July 1, was briefly stopped by a Leon County judge who called it a likely violation of the state constitution’s right to privacy., and then went back into effect when the state appealed.
Here's what the new law means for pregnant people in Florida.
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What does overturning Roe v. Wade mean?
Previously Florida's new abortion law may have faced a constitutional challenge since it was more restrictive than Roe v. Wade. That is no longer the case.
What does Florida's abortion ban do?
As of July 1, the "Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality" law (HB 5) bans all abortions at 15 weeks and later. The only exceptions are if carrying the pregnancy to term would result in serious injury or death for the mother or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.
Two physicians must certify, in writing, that one of those conditions warrants the procedure. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
The new law redefines "gestation" from "between fertilization and birth" to "as calculated from the first day of the pregnant woman's last menstrual period."
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How many months are 15 weeks?
Fifteen weeks comes out to three months and three weeks.
A full-term pregnancy is considered to be 39-40 weeks.
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Does the Florida abortion bill make exceptions for rape, incest, human trafficking or mental health?
Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate defeated amendments that would have made exceptions for rape, incest, human trafficking and mental health.
"After 15 weeks, that is a child. And so the argument is, should you kill a baby after 15 weeks because it was (conceived) under certain circumstances?" Senate President Wilton Simpson said.
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Does Florida have a waiting period for abortions?
Yes. As of April the state requires anyone seeking an abortion wait 24 hours after an initial doctor’s visit before returning to undergo the procedure.
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Can minors get an abortion in Florida?
Florida required minors seeking an abortion to notify at least one parent 48 hours before an abortion and obtain consent from a parent or approval from a judge through a legal mechanism known as judicial bypass.
What happens to doctors who perform an abortion after 15 weeks?
If a physician violates the ban, they would be guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If I get an abortion after 15 weeks will I be charged with murder?
Unlike Georgia's abortion laws, Florida's does not expressly define a fetus as a human being and there are currently no listed penalties for the person getting the abortion. The state's existing laws only penalize the doctor(s) performing it or anyone actively participating in the procedure.
If I'm pregnant in Florida and need an abortion after 15 weeks, what do I do?
If your pregnancy threatens your life or a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, or if the fetus has not achieved viability and has a fatal abnormality, you still can get an abortion but you would need to get two physicians to certify that in writing first.
Otherwise, you would need to travel out of state, and you may need to drive a while. Like Texas, Georgia bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks, often before some people even know they're pregnant.
Florida's laws still are more lenient than other states, including the ones that border us.
“As mind-boggling as it sounds, even with the 15-week restriction, we will be seen as a haven state,” said Alexandra Mandado, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida.
Many states with newly-restrictive laws — and states with bills ready to go — are expected to increase restrictions or ban abortion outright now that the Supreme Court decision has come down.
Which states have banned abortion or made it illegal?
There are 44 states with some ban on abortions after a certain point in a pregnancy, according to The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that works to study, educate, and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Twelve states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennesee, Texas, and West Virginia —ban abortions entirely.
- Georgia bans them at 6 weeks.
- Two states, Florida and Arizona, ban them at 15 weeks.
- North Carolina bans them at 20 weeks.
- Nine states, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin, ban abortions at 22 weeks.
- Nevada, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania ban them at 24 weeks.
- 14 states — California. Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, MInnesota, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, Washington and Wyoming — ban abortions at the point of viability.
- Virginia bans abortion at the beginning of the third trimeser of pregnancy, 25 weeks.
Many of these states are currently attempting to further restrict abortion or already have new laws on the books that have been blocked or contested in courts.
Are abortion pills still legal in Florida?
Sort of. In 2021 the Food and Drug Administration permanently removed a key restriction on medication used to terminate pregnancies, allowing so-called "abortion pills" to be available by mail and prescribed through telehealth medical consultations due to pandemic restrictions, and in January of this year they announced that they could be dispensed in some pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.
The U.S. Postal Service may deliver abortion pills even in states that have banned or restricted abortion access, the Department of Justice announced, since senders cannot know if the recipient will us them illegally.
But Florida law requires the physical presence of a doctor for the abortion process, which includes talking to the patient 24 hours before the procedure, so telehealth consultations are not permitted and other abortion restrictions apply. Medical abortions must be performed within the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, an even tighter deadline than the state's.
The abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, also must be prescribed, although people in states where telehealth abortions are banned have started driving over the border to states where they are not, as that can be considerably cheaper than driving to a possibly-far-off and overbooked clinic.
The day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department will protect providers and anyone seeking abortions in states where it is legal. In particular, Garland said the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of mifepristone for medical abortions.
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Where can I find an abortion clinic near me?
You can find a list of abortion clinics and health centers that perform abortions at Planned Parenthood. You also can find clinics through Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration's online facility locator by picking “Abortion clinic” in the “Facility/Provider Type” field.
There are currently 53 clinics in Florida spread across the following counties: Alachua, Broward, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole and St. Lucie. A majority of counties do not have an abortion clinic.
When does the new Florida abortion law take effect?
The law took effect July 1, 2022.
The 15-week ban is facing two lawsuits, one from a group of Planned Parenthood affiliates and independent providers, and another from a Palm Beach County synagogue. Both challenges seek to block the ban from going into effect and charge that it violates the state constitution’s privacy amendment.
What other restrictions on abortion does Florida have?
Along with the restricted time period, abortion law in Florida currently requires that 24 hours before an abortion can occur, the physician performing it or a referring physician must, while physically in the same room, inform the patient of the physical risks of both getting an abortion and carrying the pregnancy to term and the probable gestational age of the fetus as determined by mandatory ultrasound.
The physician must also provide state-directed counseling materials. The patient may refuse to look at the ultrasound.
How many abortions are done in Florida?
There were 79,648 abortions performed in 2021 in Florida, of which 59,252 (74%) were listed as elective, according to data from the state Agency for Health Care Administration. About 75,000 of them occurred in the first trimester, or the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy, compared with 4,850 in the second, according to state data.
State data shows 16,822 abortions were done because of social or economic reasons and 1,503 abortions were for the psychological health of the mother. Another 1,060 abortions were for the health of the mother yet not for life-endangering reasons, the data shows.
There were 757 abortions due to “serious fetal genetic defect, deformity or abnormality,” another 119 abortions were performed because of a life-endangering condition to the mother, eight abortions were performed because of incest and 118 were done because of rape.
Of the abortions because of serious genetic defect or some other abnormality, the state data shows 64% of them, or 484 abortions, were done in the second trimester. The second trimester starts at week 13 and ends at week 26, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Do Florida doctors support the new abortion ban?
Some do, many don't. Roughly 700 physicians in Florida signed an open letter to the state Legislature opposing the 15-week abortion ban, calling it an “alarming attempt to improperly insert politics into the patient-clinician relationship” and said the consequences for Floridians would be dire.
“This legislation is bad medicine and bad policy, and we urge you to reject it for numerous reasons,” the letter states.
Do Florida voters support the new abortion ban?
According to a poll by the University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Laboratory, 55 percent of voters surveyed opposed the abortion bill. Opposition grew to 60 percent when people were told it didn’t make exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
Thirty-four percent of the people surveyed supported the idea, according to a release from UNF.
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Will Florida pass more restrictive abortion laws?
Gov. DeSantis has not committed to whether he supports the so-called"heartbeat" abortion bill, so named because of the belief that a detectable human heartbeat can be heard at that point. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many pregnant people realize they are pregnant.
But he has said that he wants to "sign great life legislation,” and he has previously said he wants to "expand pro-life protections."
Contributors: Liz Freeman, Naples Daily News; James Call, Florida Capital Bureau; Kathryn Varn, Gannett/USA Today Network - Florida
C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Read more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges
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