Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.
The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother's life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.
"This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation," DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the "Nación de Fe" ("Nation of Faith"), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.
DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or, in the case of one, regretted having done so.
Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying "Choose life," while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant's feet and a heartbeat reading, "Protect Life."
Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal and revealing inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.
Elsewhere in the United States, Republican lawmakers have introduced new abortion restrictions, some similar to a Texas law that bans abortion after roughly six weeks and leaves enforcement up to private citizens, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave in place.
Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a bill to make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to a decade in prison. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in March signed legislation to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks if the U.S. Supreme Court leaves Mississippi's law in place.
If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban or severely restrict abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights. During debate of the Florida legislation, Republicans have said they want the state to be well placed to limit access to abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's law.