Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill which would prevent women from getting an abortion after six weeks.
The ban will take effect only if Florida’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge currently before the Supreme Court.
It follows moves by a number of other southern states to restrict the procedure, after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade June last year.
So far, the states currently enforcing total bans on abortions are, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
Georgia has also enforced a law which restricts pregnant women from getting an abortion at around six weeks.
The abortion ban will prevent around four million women in Florida from accessing abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy.
However, six weeks is before many women may even know they are pregnant.
The Turnaway Study included telephone interviews with 956 women who sought an abortion in the first trimester or just over or under the gestational limit of one of 30 abortion facilities across the US, and in-depth interviews with 31 women who had completed five years of surveys.
Researchers found women seeking an abortion in the second trimester recognised their pregnancy more than eight-weeks after their last menstrual period.
More than one in five realised they were pregnant after 20 weeks.
Democrats and abortion-rights groups have criticised Florida’s proposal as extreme.
The move has been seen as having the potential to give DeSantis a key political victory among some Republican voters as he prepares to launch his bid to become Republican presidential candidate for 2024.
In a statement White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the ban will impact nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who currently live in abortion banning states, women and girls who “have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care.”
The bill has some exemptions, including allowing an termination to save a woman’s life.
Abortions for pregnancies involving rape or incest would be allowed until 15 weeks of pregnancy, provided a woman has documentation such as a restraining order or police report.
DeSantis has called the rape and incest provisions sensible.
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Backing the bill
Republican house representative Jenna Persons-Mulicka said: “We have the opportunity to lead the national debate about the importance of protecting life and giving every child the opportunity to be born and find his or her purpose.”
Mike Beltran, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, said the bill’s exceptions and its six week timeframe represents a compromise.
He added: “I can’t think of any bill that’s going to provide more protections to more people who are more vulnerable than this piece of legislation.”
On Thursday, a federal court ruled that abortion pill mifepristone will remain available in the US for the time being, but its distribution will be restricted.
This comes after District Judge Matthew J Kacsmaryk, a Trump administration appointee in Texas signed an injunction directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt its approval.
‘Americans demand the freedom to make their own decisions’
Ms Jean-Pierre said following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “the message has been clear.”
“Americans demand the freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies without government interference,” she added.
“Despite this, Republican elected officials continue their work to dismantle our fundamental freedoms, including through attempts to ban abortion nationwide.”
“President Biden and his Administration stand with women and physicians-and we will continue to fight to protect access to abortion and defend reproductive rights.”