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Abortion rights advocates blast a proposed 6-week ban in Florida

More patients from out-of-state came to Florida for abortions last year as other states in the region enacted near-total bans on the procedure.
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
More patients from out of state came to Florida for abortions last year as other states in the region enacted near-total bans on the procedure.

Doctors and advocates who help people access safe abortions say a 6-week ban may as well be a total ban. They say it will hurt women, trans and nonbinary people in Florida and around the Southeast.

Abortion rights advocates are criticizing a proposal to ban the procedure after six weeks in Florida, saying it could force many people to remain pregnant against their will.

Republican state lawmakers filed bills on Tuesday to further limit access to abortions from the 15-week ban currently in place, which doctors like Robyn Schickler, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, say is already too restrictive.

It has already been harder for patients to schedule appointments at the center since the 15-week ban went into effect last summer and since the state mandated patients wait 24 hours after seeing a doctor to get an abortion, Schickler said.

A six-week ban would give women, transgender men and nonbinary people almost no time to take action, as many don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point.

“We would work to get people in as quickly as possible — more quickly than they have been — because I mean currently with the wait time, if you're already five weeks even, you might not make it in by six weeks,” said Schickler.

Planned Parenthood staff would help patients figure out how to access safe, legal abortions out of state if needed, she added, as they do now with patients past the 15-week deadline.

A six-week ban would disproportionately affect people in marginalized communities who may have a harder time traveling, said Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of the Florida Access Network.

The statewide abortion fund helps people pay for medical, travel and childcare costs needed to get care.

“The majority of our clients are coming to us without the support of loved ones for their abortion care, they're coming to us already with children, already struggling to make ends meet,” said Loraine Piñeiro.

Further restricting access in Florida would also harm people in neighboring states with similar laws who now come to Florida to access abortions, she said.

The legislation filed this week includes exceptions for survivors of rape and incest up to 15 weeks, but patients would have to provide proof they were assaulted, which advocates say could threaten patient safety and retraumatize them.

"These abortion restrictions don't have the lives of the people who they affect in mind, they're meant to push right-wing, anti-abortion, anti-bodily autonomy propaganda," said Loraine Piñeiro.

Advocates stress that the bill has only been introduced so far, and that as of today, abortion is still legal for all patients in Florida up to 15 weeks.

A lawsuit challenging the current ban is underway and awaits a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court later this year. A key issue is whether these bans violate a privacy clause in the state constitution that previous courts have said protects the right to abortion.

Planned Parenthood and abortion funds including Florida Access Network say they’re committed to continuing to provide safe care and will support anyone who requires assistance if they need an abortion after that time period.

Abortion resources

  • Florida Access Network has a resources page for people who need more information about Florida's abortion laws and how to get help. You can also research their emotional support helpline at 1-888-493-0092.
  • Planned Parenthood also has information on abortion and other reproductive health services on its website, where you can schedule a virtual or in-person appointment for care.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.