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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill that would ban most abortions in the state after six weeks, before many people know theyre pregnant, further decimating abortion access in the South.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon in a 7040 vote. DeSantis signed it into law hours later, sharing a late-night tweet with a photo of him signing the bill.

The ban does not immediately go into effect, however; medical providers and patients are still waiting for Floridas Supreme Court to rule on a legal challenge to the states existing 15-week ban. If the 15-week ban is upheld, as many predict is likely due to the conservative makeup of the court, the six-week ban is then expected to take effect. 

Though the proposed six-week ban has exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and human trafficking, those exceptions are only available up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. And in those cases, in order to be granted the exception, the person would have to provide documentation such as a restraining order, a police report, medical record or other court order or documentation proving that she is obtaining the termination of pregnancy because she is a victim of rape or incest. 

In addition, there is an exception if the life of the pregnant person is at risk, but the law would require two doctors to certify in writing that the abortion is necessary to save the pregnant person’s life or to avert a serious risk of irreversible physical impairment. The bill would also prohibit telehealth for abortion care.

Many people will not even know they are pregnant by six weeks, and for those who do, it is unlikely they will be able to schedule the legally required two in-person doctors appointments before six weeks of pregnancy, said Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, in a statement.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, 13 states have banned most abortions, and one state, Georgia, has a six-week abortion ban. As of April 2023, Florida is one of the last remaining states in the South that had not effectively banned abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The states six-week ban will mean a swath of more than 780,000 square miles in the United States where people cannot access the procedure.

It will turn Florida a state that already requires two in-person appointments for abortion care into one of the most restrictive states in the nation for abortion care, said Alexandra Mandado, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. It will have devastating consequences for the southeast, Caribbean, Central and South America, and beyond.

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