KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Florida's governor on Thursday signed into law newly passed legislation which bans abortions in the Sunshine State after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
"We are here today to protect life," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference in Kissimmee. "We are here today to defend those who can't defend themselves."
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Back in February, the Florida Legislature passed the controversial HB 5, officially called the "Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality" bill.
Currently, women in Florida cannot legally receive an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The new legislation shortens that time period by nine weeks.
DeSantis on Thursday said the new law "protects the rights of unborn children."
"This is a time where these babies have beating hearts. They can move. They can taste. They can see. They can feel pain. They can suck their thumbs. And they have brainwaves," DeSantis said. "This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation."
The only exceptions to the 15-week abortion ban are if the abortion is necessary to save a mother's life, prevent serious injury to the mother, or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.
"It's a statement of our values that every life is important," DeSantis said.
Democrats in the Florida Legislature had fought to add rape, incest, and human trafficking to the list of exemptions, but their efforts failed.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Florida, released a statement Thursday, calling this a "dark day for Florida":
"The personal decision about whether and when to bring a child into this world should be made by the pregnant individual, not their governor, local representative, or Member of Congress. I am deeply concerned about the consequences this extreme abortion ban will have on pregnant people across our state, especially low-income individuals and underserved communities. Abortion care shouldn’t be determined by your income level or zip code. We must continue to fight for reproductive justice in Florida and nationwide."
Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book released a statement Thursday, saying DeSantis has robbed women of their reproductive rights:
"Florida Republicans claim we are the 'Free State of Florida' – yet there is no freedom when women are denied access to critical healthcare and the ability to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives. This abortion ban has total disregard for victims of rape, incest, and human trafficking who may need more time to physically and psychologically heal, arrive at a decision, and receive care. Sentencing victims of rape, incest, and trafficking to carry an unwanted pregnancy resulting from their assault is cruel and unusual punishment which does nothing except bludgeon the rights and well-being of women. This is not a 'moderate' or fair bill if a woman or girl must live with the consequence of someone else’s actions, revictimized by the decisions of Florida’s right-wing GOP. Without access to safe and legal procedures, a woman’s life and her liberty are severely endangered. This is nothing more than an authoritarian move by Florida Republicans. Florida will never be free while lawmakers turn a blind eye to women’s rights, victims’ rights, and to the decent and basic needs of our citizens."
State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said she's "disappointed and saddened" by the passage of the legislation, saying the "state should not be invading the privacy of this very difficult decision a woman may need to make for herself and her family."
Other Florida Democrats quickly condemned the signing. Members of the legislature’s minority party called HB 5 dangerous, extreme, and unconstitutional.
Many worried low-income and minority Floridians will suffer under the law's restrictions.
"Gov. DeSantis says that this is the freest state in the country, and yet today he just stripped away freedoms for half the population," said State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
The new law will go into effect on July 1, but the fight will likely not be over as many opponents are already weighing legal challenges.