Florida’s abortion law will change: Here’s when

The Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s abortion law Monday, setting up a change to the law in the coming months that will likely be a focus for the November election.

The court upheld the state’s current 15-week ban on abortion in the Monday ruling, allowing it to continue to be enforced. The conservative majority ruled the right to privacy does not extend to abortion.

Despite legal challenges, the 15-week restriction was already in effect in Florida after it was passed in 2022.

The ruling cements Florida as part of the group of 20 states where access to abortion is at least severely restricted, according to Planned Parenthood. The group described access to abortion in Florida as “extremely difficult and time-consuming,” despite being legal in some circumstances.

Florida has become a hotspot for abortion procedures in the South even with the 15-week ban, as neighboring states have even stricter restrictions. Nearly 5,000 more abortions were provided in Florida in the first six months of 2023 than a year before, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Virginia is now the only state in the South that allows abortion beyond the first trimester.

Pending 6-week ban

A six-week ban on abortion, passed last year but paused due to the state Supreme Court’s case, will go into effect May 1. That change is set to bring Florida in line with other restrictive states in the Deep South, severely limiting access to abortion for the whole region.

Abortion-rights proponents were disheartened by the ruling allowing the ban.

“This decision demonstrates how precarious our personal freedoms are in this state,” Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) told The Associated Press. “It’s so extreme you’re going to see Floridians having to go out of state, probably to Virginia, to get care.”

The new pending ban has increased pressure on advocates pushing for abortion protections in the state, efforts which have coalesced behind a push for a constitutional amendment ballot measure. The state Supreme Court allowed the ballot measure to move forward in a separate ruling Monday, setting up a pivotal vote in the November election.

Conservatives fought against a constitutional amendment vote, challenging its wording and its petitions, as the efforts have found success in red states across the country. Kansas and Kentucky are among the traditionally conservative strongholds that have rejected abortion restrictions or added protections at the ballot box in recent elections.

Adding abortion protections to the Florida ballot could drive voter turnout, as Democrats hope to turn the Sunshine State purple once again after years of strong performance by Republicans. The Biden campaign described the state as “winnable” on Monday, citing the abortion ballot measure.

“Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win, but it is a winnable one for President Biden, especially given [former President] Trump’s weak, cash-strapped campaign, and serious vulnerabilities within his coalition,” Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Biden’s campaign manager, wrote in a memo first reported by NBC News.

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