Ron DeSantis quietly enacted legislation on Thursday to ban the majority of abortions in Florida after six weeks. This will affect his possible presidential run in 2024.
DeSantis announced last month that he was signing the bill passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature. This is despite the fact that most public opinion polls show that an abortion ban at six weeks in pregnancy is not popular with either political party.
Florida's law prohibits abortions after six weeks, but it creates a new exemption for rape or incest until 15 weeks. The law does not alter the existing exemptions that protect the life of the mother and her health up to 15-weeks.
DeSantis has signed the bill just hours after it was passed by the Legislature on Thursday afternoon. He didn't make the announcement until well after 11 pm.
The lack of attention around the bill highlights how difficult abortion politics will be for Republicans in 2022, when Democrats will be hammering the GOP nationally on the issue. This is especially true for DeSantis who may decide to run for the GOP presidential nomination.
In late February, the University of North Florida conducted a poll on the proposed ban. It found that 75% of residents of the state were either slightly or strongly against it. This included 61% of Republicans.
This is the latest move by Republicans to reduce access to abortions in Florida. DeSantis signed an abortion ban of 15 weeks passed by the GOP controlled Legislature. The Florida Supreme Court is currently reviewing the law. The six-week abortion ban will remain on hold until the Florida Supreme Court rules on this proposal.
Florida is now the place where people from all over the Southeast go for abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to one. Other states in the Southeast have banned abortions.
According to Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, the number of women seeking an abortion in Florida from another state increased from 3,988 by 2020 to 6,708 by 2022.
As the Republican presidential candidates try to navigate the murky waters of the abortion issue, the abortion fight will undoubtedly take center stage. It is important for candidates to be anti-abortion in order to win the Republican presidential primaries. However, going too far on this issue can have a negative impact on a general election.
Florida's six-week ban proposal quickly caught the attention of White House officials, a sign that President Joe Biden views it as useful political grist to use against DeSantis with whom he has had a public feud for months.
In a March statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that the President and Vice-President believed women should have the freedom to make healthcare choices with their doctors and family members -- without political interference. "They are committed in protecting access to reproductive health care and continue to ask Congress to restore Roe v. Wade protections to federal law."
Only two Republicans out of 28 in the Florida Senate voted no. Freshmen legislators who had flipped the legislative swing seats that Biden won in 2020 cast both "no" ballots.
"I do not support this bill today but I think it will pass, and become law in this state," said Republican State Sen. Alexis Calatyud. Biden's Miami-based Miami seat was won by 54% of voters in 2020. "And I think it will go a very long way in helping to change the hearts of those who have been influenced by 10 years of anti-life culture," said Calatyud.
DeSantis' supporters believe they can use an unpopular law to force DeSantis to run. However, he isn't expected to declare his candidacy before May or June.
Former Trump adviser said that Ron DeSantis had tried to create the image of "never backing down" by referring to a pro DeSantis super-PAC named "Never Back Down" which, according reports, has raised more than $30 million. "Well, it's clear that he is pregnant with this bill and the six-week mark has passed. So maybe ironically, he will also live to regret his actions."
Since he announced that he would be running for president again, Trump has been largely silent on the abortion issue. Trump blamed his U.S. Senate picks for losing key races in the midterm elections.
Trump wrote on Truth Social at the beginning of January that it was not his fault Republicans failed to meet expectations during the Midterms. It was the 'abortion' issue, poorly handled by Republicans, particularly those who firmly insisted that No Exceptions, including in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, were what lost many Voters.
Trump has avoided this issue since then, despite a number of abortion restrictions he imposed during his four-year tenure as president, including the ban on federal family plan providers referring patients to abortion clinics. This was a part of his stated attempt to "defund Planned Parenthood".
He has, so far, avoided questions from reporters about this issue and instead focused on other issues that are popular among Republican primary voters.
Some GOP candidates in 2024 have used different approaches to answer questions about abortion.
Mike Pence is Trump's former Vice President, and is expected to run for the Republican nomination in 2024. He is one of the most anti-abortion politicians within his party. He supports a federal ban on abortion.
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Tim Scott, a South Carolina senator, announced this week an exploratory committee for 2024. He has not responded to questions regarding his position on federal abortion legislation. Scott has also co-sponsored antiabortion bills in the Senate including a proposal by Lindsey Graham, a fellow South Carolina senator, that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.