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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill outlawing most abortions after six weeks after passage by the Republican-led Florida House. Key Biscayne’s representative was one of a small group of Republicans voting no on Thursday.

News of the governor’s signature came in a terse release emailed to the media shortly before midnight.

Democrats opposed the measure, SB 300, saying many women don’t even know they are pregnant at six weeks.  

Vicki Lopez, a Republican who represents Key Biscayne and much of coastal Miami, said she voted no because it did not align with her views or those of her constituents.

“I didn’t agree with giving rape or incest victims 15 weeks while giving all other women only six weeks when most women do not even know that they are pregnant,” Lopez said. 

“I also had issues with the potential of men being falsely accused of rape or incest so that women would be able to qualify for an abortion,” Lopez said in a statement after the vote. 

The final tally was 70-40, largely on party lines. 

The tally of of a final vote to limit most abortions to six weeks in the Florida House of Representatives, Thursday April 13, 2023. Rep. Vicki Lopez, who represents Key Biscayne and part of coastal Miami, broke with other Republicans and voted no. (KBI via the Florida Channel)

The Senate had passed the same bill on April 3. Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Republican who represents Miami and Key Biscayne, also voted no, but said she supported some aspects of it.

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Thirteen states banned abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade in June 2022. 

Just last year, the Florida Legislature passed a law banning abortion after 15-weeks —  and some pregnant Florida women immediately ran into roadblocks. 

The Washington Post this month profiled two Broward County women who had pre-labor ruptures and were denied abortions to save their lives.

The new law provides exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking but only for pregnancies up to 15 weeks. There is also $30 million for programs to support contraceptives, parenting and pregnancies.

Drugs used in medication-induced abortions — which make up the majority of those provided nationally — could be dispensed only in person or by a physician under the Florida bill.

Separately, nationwide access to the abortion pill mifepristone is being challenged in court.

The law does not go into effect immediately. The six-week ban only comes into force if the state’s current 15-week ban survives a legal challenge now pending before the Florida Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.

Before the House vote Thursday, Democrats filed dozens of amendments  that would address paternity leave, child support, religious exemptions and a provision that would let a judge allow an abortion if a pregnancy was life-threatening.

The amendments were voted down in voice votes, often on audibly obvious gender lines. 

During the debate on the bill, Rep. Shane Abbott, R-Marianna, drew a line between sea turtles and alligators and women’s autonomy over their bodies.

“It is a third degree felony to harm sea turtle eggs. It’s a third degree felony to harm alligator eggs. So we’re willing to protect an unborn alligator and an unborn sea turtle but we are sitting here debating whether or not it is worth protecting an unborn human,” he said.

Some female lawmakers told personal stories how they or relatives needed medicallyl necessary abortions because the fetus was not viable or that the mother’s life was in danger.

Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, told of a 11-year-old rape and incest victim who last year was more than 15 weeks pregnant.

“That 11-year-old girl had to carry that baby to term,” Cross said. “My heart sincerely goes out to the young girls in Florida who will wake up with less rights than their mothers and their grandmothers.”

Sen. Jennifer “Rita” Harris, D-Orlando, said Floridians don’t support the six-week abortion ban and that it puts women’s lives at risk.

“This new ban is beyond radical. It’s extreme. There are people in this state right now who don’t even know they are pregnant. They don’t know right this very minute if  there is a complication. This is a death sentence for them,” she said.

Harris predicted  there will be an electoral cost for Republicans  supporting the ban and that women will “rise like the Phoenix.”

The abortion issue has galvanized women across the nation, handing Democrats victories in elections in some states, crashing a “red wave” that Republicans had hoped for in the midterm elections.
DeSantis is expected to announce his presidential candidacy after the session ends in May, with his potential White House run in part buoyed by the conservative policies approved by the Republican supermajority in the Statehouse this year.

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This story was updated to reflect the governor’s signature

Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee and Tony Winton contributed to this report. 

John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.