ORLANDO — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday banning late-term abortions after 15 weeks gestation.
The law, HB 5, allows exceptions when the mother’s life is at risk or in danger of “irreversible physical impairment,” or if the unborn baby has a fetal abnormality. It does not offer exceptions for rape.
“We are here today to protect life,” DeSantis said Thursday ahead of the bill signing. “We are here today to defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
“This is a time when 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 brain waves,” he added, referring to babies who are 15 weeks or older. “And so this will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation.”
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) April 14, 2022
The Florida governor signed HB 5 as pro-life activists and Republican lawmakers push for officials to investigate the abortions of five preemie-sized babies that activists say they intercepted outside a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic.
D.C. officials have indicated they will not perform autopsies on the babies, prompting Republicans like Texas Rep. Chip Roy to question whether “Mayor Bowser and her radically pro-abortion cronies” are avoiding autopsies for ideological reasons.
DeSantis strongly criticized Democratic lawmakers who advocate for aborting babies up until nine months of pregnancy.
“That is just fundamentally wrong, that is infanticide,” he said.
“That type of mindset has led to things that really shock the conscience in our society,” he said, referring to the “terrible scandal” of the aborted babies intercepted in D.C.
“And yet Washington, D.C. is treating that just like we would treat the trash in our lunch or something like that,” he said. “It’s really horrifying to see that that could go on in our country, but particularly in our nation’s capitol.”
“That t is callous, that is wrong,” he added.
In March, when he signaled he would sign the legislation, DeSantis pointed out that 15 weeks is “very, very late” in a pregnancy.
“And this [15 weeks] is very, very late. And so I think the protections are warranted,” DeSantis said of HB 5.
Florida’s legislation has received strong pushback from President Joe Biden’s administration and from abortion supporters and groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“If this ban is allowed to take effect, Floridians will be forced to travel more than 1,000 miles roundtrip to get an abortion after 15 weeks,” Elisabeth Smith, Director of State Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement in late March.
“The stakes in the Supreme Court right now could not be higher,” she added. “Americans of reproductive age today have never known a world in which they do not have the right to abortion.”
DeSantis’ press secretary tore into Biden after the president criticized the state’s upcoming pro-life legislation.
“Last night, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a dangerous bill that will severely restrict women’s access to reproductive health care,” Biden said in a late-March tweet. “My Administration will not stand for the continued erosion of women’s constitutional rights.”
At the time, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw responded to the president by asking why he did not specify that the bill protects unborn babies after 15 weeks, highlighting that the Biden administration has repeatedly refused to address where it draws the line on abortion. This has caused many to infer that it has no objections to abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
“That is when they can already feel pain and they’re getting close to viability,” she said. “Babies have been born at 20 weeks and survived. What you’re arguing for is unfettered LATE TERM abortion.”