Thursday, February 22

Florida joins growing list of states to follow Texas’ lead in passing new abortion restrictions

As President Joe Biden’s administration promises to protect abortion access nationwide, states continue to pass legislation that further restricts abortion, including Florida last week.

While some states have tried to enact bills similar to Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion after approximately six weeks and has a civil enforcement mechanism, some Republican-led states have opted for a less restrictive ban.

On Thursday, legislators in Florida passed a bill that would restrict abortions before 15 weeks — similar to a Mississippi law being challenged in the Supreme Court.

The Mississippi Case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, is expected to be decided by the nation’s highest court in June. Many experts anticipate the court will uphold the law, which would overturn the 49-year-old ruling in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion up to viability across the nation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the new legislation into law. The state currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks. According to data provided by the state’s senate, there were 68,449 abortions performed in 2021. Only 4,104 of those were performed from 13 to 24 weeks.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement Friday that the Biden administration is opposed to the bill.

“The right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is non-negotiable. If signed into law, Florida’s bill would violate the constitutional right to abortion that the Supreme Court has recognized for nearly 50 years. It will block access to crucial reproductive health care for Floridians, with a particular impact on low-income communities, communities of color, and rural communities,” Harris said in the statement.

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If DeSantis signs, the law would go into effect July 1.

In February, the Arizona Senate voted to approve a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, also mirroring the Mississippi law. A copycat of Texas’ six-week ban was introduced in the Arizona legislature in January, but it has not advanced.

Another development came Thursday as Idaho’s Senate voted 28-6 on a Texas-style law banning abortion after six weeks, which could potentially make it the first state to successfully copy SB 8 in some form. The Idaho law, however, only allows lawsuits against abortion providers, while SB 8 allows suits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion.

Also on Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with Kentucky’s attorney general in Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, allowing the attorney general to summarize a legal defense on Kentucky House Bill 454 in lower courts.

On Wednesday, an Ohio county court put a temporary restraining order on a new state law that makes it harder for abortion clinics to obtain licenses to operate. The order came because the department of health was prematurely enforcing the law. Ohio’s Senate Bill 157 was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on Dec. 22, 2021, and takes effect March 23.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, and Women’s Med Dayton issued a statement praising the decision by the county court.

“The courts have confirmed again and again that these unnecessary restrictions pushed by Ohio politicians impose severe burdens on patients and providers. Today’s decision is just one in this series of rulings that sees these technical licensing requirements for what they are — dangerous laws with no other intention than to eliminate access to abortion in Southwest Ohio,” the organizations said in the statement.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement Friday alleging US Health and Human Services was illegally allocating funds for abortions through the family planning program.

“The Biden Administration has tried to make a mockery of our constitutional rights, but I will hold them accountable for illegally using taxpayer dollars to fund and encourage abortions,” Paxton said. “I will not allow them to appropriate state funding under the guise of ‘family planning’ while clearly violating congressional statutes.”

On March 1, lawmakers in Georgia’s Senate passed legislation called the Women’s Health and Safety Act, which bans chemical abortion pills being prescribed through telemedicine and requires an in-person examination. The bill mirrors a law enacted in Texas on Dec. 1.

A study released in February by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that studies reproductive health policy, showed that for the first time in the nation’s history, pills accounted for the majority of US abortions.

March 1 also marked the vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which failed to receive enough votes in the starkly divided US Senate. The measure failed 46 to 48, with Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn voting against the procedural debate.

The bill would have cemented Roe vs. Wade into federal law and established a woman’s legal right to an abortion through Congress. If it had passed, the law would have nullified Texas’ six-week ban along with other state laws that restrict abortion.

In addition, March 1 marked six months since SB 8 was enacted, and it has survived many legal challenges already. On Dec. 10, the US Supreme Court upheld the law while allowing one limited challenge regarding state medical licensing officials to play out.

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