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Florida lawmakers likely to consider additional abortion restrictions in new year

Members of the Florida House of Representatives are seen during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol on March 7 in Tallahassee.
Wilfredo Lee
Members of the Florida House of Representatives are seen during a legislative session at the Florida State Capitol on March 7 in Tallahassee.

Republican legislative leaders say they are open to advancing more limits on abortion in 2023, but it's not yet known how strict any new restrictions would be.

Incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has said she wants to see Florida's ban on abortion after 15 weeks reduced to 12 weeks.

The proposal could include an exclusion for rape and incest, which is currently not allowed.

But anti-abortion activists want even tighter restrictions and are pushing for an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy.

Meanwhile, reproductive rights groups in Florida say the state's current ban has already made an impact, especially in Northern Florida which borders states with near total abortion bans.

"Right before Roe fell and after the state ban was signed, the amount of patients that we saw tripled,” said Melanie Williams with Planned Parenthood of Florida.

“And that, of course, puts a strain not only on our health care workers but on our patients, because we have people coming from Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. There are situations where we may have to call Florida patients who have an appointment on the books and ask them if they can push it back a little bit because we have somebody from another state who may be right on that cusp at 14 weeks."

It's been six months since the U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that made access to an abortion a federal right in the United States.

In that time, individual states took action to restrict or expand reproductive rights.

In April, Governor Ron DeSantis signedthe bill that bans most abortions in Florida after 15 weeks. The law went into effect in July.

Now, with state lawmakers saying further restrictions may be introduced, a variety of reproductive rights groups are speaking out.

Chauntee Howard,with the advocacy group, Melanin Mothers Meet, says any further limits on abortion will have an outsized impact on the black maternal mortality rate.

"Which is already higher than any other racial or ethnic group,” she said. “We're three to four times more likely to die than our white counterparts and there's not enough attention being called to these disparities."

According to census data, more Black people live in states that ban abortion, including several states that border Florida.

The 15-week ban is being challenged before the state's Supreme Court and remains in effect until the court issues an opinion.
Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.
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