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DeSantis signs a 15-week ban on most abortions into law

 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a 15-week abortion ban into law during a press conference in Kissimmiee on April 14, 2022.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a 15-week abortion ban into law during a press conference in Kissimmiee on April 14, 2022.

Saying it "represents the most significant protections for life in the state's modern history," Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday sign a bill that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.

Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

DeSantis signed the bill while flanked by lawmakers during a press conference in Kissimmee.

The move comes amid a growing conservative push to restrict abortion ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit access to the procedure nationwide.

"House Bill 5 protects babies in the womb who have beating hearts, who can move, who can taste, who can see, and who can feel pain,” DeSantis said in a press release. “Life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection, and I am proud to sign this great piece of legislation."

The bill was one of the most intensely disputed issues of the 2022 legislative session.

The new law also marked a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.

At the press conference at a church in Kissimmee, outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson said the law would "protect life."

"Abortion kills children and forever changes the life of mothers, the father, and the entire extended family," Simpson said. "Every unborn child is a special and unique human being, deserving of protection from harm and the chance to grow up in a loving family."

It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.

Gricel Gonzalez, press secretary for the Florida Democratic Party, issued this statement following the announcement:

"Not to consider women's rights to choose is outrageous. Women who have been victims of rape, incest, and human trafficking have already been through enough emotional trauma and ignoring this is a direct attack against women. This radical and abject hostility towards women's rights is unacceptable. For decades women have been victims of men trying to make decisions for them, and Gov. DeSantis' actions are no exception."

Groups including Planned Parenthood warn that marginalized communities, including Black and Latino residents, will have the added burden of traveling out of state for the procedure.

"We've entered a dangerous time for Floridians' reproductive freedom. In just a few months, thousands of pregnant people in Florida will no longer be able to access the care they need without leaving their state," said Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson in a statement. "The supporters of this bill have put their own political ambitions and beliefs before the health and futures of their constituents."

Republicans in several states have moved to place new restrictions on abortion after the Supreme Court signaled it is poised to uphold a Mississippi law banning the procedure after 15 weeks.

During the House debate, Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy shared that she had previously gotten an abortion and was "ashamed because I will never get to know the unborn child that I could have had."

"It's something I have regretted every day since," Trabulsy said. "This is the right to life and to give up life is unconscionable to me."

In the Senate, Democrat Lauren Book pushed for an amendment to the bill that would have allowed exceptions for incest, rape or human trafficking. Book spoke of her own experience of sexual abuse and rape.

"It's not OK to force someone who's been sexually assaulted and impregnated to carry that pregnancy to term if they don't want to, it's just not," she said. "And if a woman or a girl needs more than 15 weeks to decide, we should be able to give that to her."

The law is scheduled to take effect in July, but opponents say they will challenge the law in court.

Information from WUSF staff writer Cathy Carter, NPR and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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