Yesterday evening, April 13, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Heartbeat Protection Act (SB 300). This law will prohibit physicians from knowingly performing or inducing an abortion after six weeks gestation, when a heartbeat can be detected, with the following exceptions:
- The woman was a victim of rape, incest, or human trafficking and is not further along than 15 weeks.
- Two physicians certify in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, abortion is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. One physician can also certify this if another physician is unavailable for consultation. It is noted psychological conditions are not covered in this exception.
- Two physicians certify in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality, and the abortion is performed before the third trimester.
The Act will also require the Department of Health to contract for the management and delivery of parenting and pregnancy support services and allocate $30 million in recurring funds from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Health to implement pregnancy support and wellness services for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, including $5 million for s. 381.0051 (3), (4), and (6), Florida Statutes and $25 million for statute 381.96.
SB 300 will amend s. 381.96, revising the terms “eligible client” and “pregnancy and parenting support” to read that eligible clients for pregnancy support and wellness services include:
- A pregnant woman or a woman who suspects she is pregnant and voluntarily seeks pregnancy support or wellness services and the family of such woman.
- A woman who has given birth in the previous 12 months and her family.
- A parent or parents or a legal guardian or legal guardians, and the families of such parents and legal guardians, for up to 12 months after the birth of a child or the adoption of a child younger than 3 years of age.
“Pregnancy and parenting support” is defined as services that promote and encourage childbirth, including but not limited to:
- Direct client services – pregnancy testing, counseling, referrals, training, and education for pregnant women and their families
- Material assistance – clothing, car seats, cribs, diapers, etc.
- Counseling or mentoring – education materials and classes regarding pregnancy, parenting, adoption, life skills, employment readiness, etc.
- Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc. awareness campaigns – promotional campaigns to educate the public about pregnancy support services
- Communication activities – operation of a hotline with a nationwide toll-free 24/7 number to connect clients with local pregnancy centers
“Wellness services” are defined as services or activities intended to maintain and improve health or prevent illness and injury, including, but not limited to, high blood pressure screening, anemia testing, thyroid screening, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, and assistance with smoking cessation.
Additionally, the law will require physicians to report incidents of rape, incest, or human trafficking of minors to the central abuse hotline and prohibit anyone other than a physician from inducing an abortion. Telehealth abortions will also not be allowed under the law as it requires all medications intended for use in a medical abortion to be dispensed in person and prohibits dispensing such medication through the US Postal Service.
The Heartbeat Protection Act will go into effect 30 days after a decision from the courts is made regarding whether the right to privacy enshrined in s. 23, Article I of the State Constitution includes a right to abortion.
Although this is a great step forward for Florida, which previously allowed abortions up to 15 weeks, we hope to see stronger protections in the future for all babies!