Wednesday, May 01, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Florida prepares for one of nation’s strictest abortion bans to take effect. (WaPo)

So much for DeSANTIS's propaganda about Florida as a "Freedom State."  Malarkey.  Please join me in voting for Amendment 4, the Florida reproductive rights constitutional amendment on November 5, 2024. From The Washington Post: 

Florida prepares for one of nation’s strictest abortion bans to take effect

Updated April 30, 2024 at 1:08 p.m. EDT|Published April 30, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. EDT
Abortion rights advocates hold a rally in downtown Orlando on April 13. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/AP) 
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Clinics, patients and abortion rights activists in Florida are bracing for the impact of a new law that will transform the state overnight from one with the fewest restrictions for the procedure in the South to a place where it will be all but banned.

The six-week abortion law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year and confirmed by the Florida Supreme Court earlier this month takes effect Wednesday. In the days leading up to the ban, clinics have seen a surge in demand. Meanwhile, advocates have started getting the word out on how to access abortion pills by mail.

“People are scrambling to get in before the deadline,” said Kelly Flynn,the president and chief executive of A Woman’s Choice, a network of abortion clinics. “We’re telling them, ‘Hey, it’s going to be busy.’ We don’t want them to walk in blindsided.”

The law’s enactment and an abortion referendum that will be put before Florida voters in November have turned the Sunshine State into one of the most consequential battlegrounds for women’s reproductive rights since the fall of Roe v. Wade.

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Last year, more than 84,000 people got abortions in Florida, more than in almost any other state. Many of those patients traveled from other states in the South where strict abortion laws were enacted following the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision upending access to the procedure.

Florida’s strict new ban will leave women in the South with ever fewer options: The closest abortion clinic for someone living at Florida’s southernmost tip will be a 14-hour drive away in Charlotte. A patient whose pregnancy has progressed beyond 12 weeks, the point at which North Carolina bans abortion, will have to drive 17 hours, to southern Virginia.

Meanwhile, a Florida Supreme Court ruling authorizing a referendum on whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution has re-energized what was expected to be a chronicle of a presidential election foretold. Democrats in the state, which has increasingly veered right, see abortion as a winning issue in November.

President Biden’s reelection campaign has already begun directing its attention at Florida. The president visited Tampa last week, blaming former president Donald Trump for the overturning of Roe. Biden noted that abortion rights initiatives in other states have been successful, adding, “this November, you can add Florida to that list.”

Vice President Harris is scheduled to appear in Jacksonville on Wednesday for a speech about abortion bans.

“If you want to protect democracy and freedom across the entire country, then you have to come to the belly of the beast, which is here, in the state of Florida,” Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, said Tuesday. “Democrats have been on that front line.”

The Trump campaign has reiterated the former president’s comments that the issue should be left up to the states.

DeSantis on Tuesday called the six-week ban “a noble effort,” and praised the state Supreme Court for approving the measure. He said the court “dropped the ball” by allowing the amendment to codify abortion access in the state constitution.

He also said he’s not worried about Democrats making abortion a focus of election efforts in Florida.

“I welcome Biden-Harris to spend a lot of money in Florida. Light up the airwaves. Do it. Light it on fire,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tampa. “We are fine with you doing that here. But I can confidently predict that you’ll see Republican victories not just at the top of the ticket, but up and down the ballot.”

Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani has been warning her constituents for months about the consequences of the new law, and on Monday she posted advice from the group Progress Florida on how people can navigate the ban. They include tips on how to get abortion pills by mail, where to find legal help, and a link to a website chatbot named “Charley” that says “I can help you get or manage an abortion.”

Eskamani said the abortion landscape in Florida is “horrifying” for both people in the state and those who would have traveled there for the procedure.

“This is by far one of the cruelest abortion bans in the country,” said Eskamani, a former senior director at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

The new abortion ban includes exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking, but requires supporting documents from doctors or law enforcement agencies in those cases, and is only legal up to 15 weeks. The new law also makes exceptions for fatal fetal anomalies, so long as the pregnancy has not advanced to the third trimester.

An abortion can also be performed beyond six weeks if a woman’s life is at risk, or in the event that she faces a “substantial and irreversible” physical impairment.

The law could, in theory, could be in effect for less than a year. If 60 percent of voters approve the abortion referendum in November, it would take effect in January and obviate the six-week ban. To reach the 60 percent mark, referendum supporters will need to enlist the support of Republicans and those not affiliated with any party. Democrats make up about 32 percent of the state’s voters.

In the final days before the six-week ban takes effect, clinics across Florida were expanding their hours to see as many patients as possible.

At a clinic in the Fort Lauderdale area, director Eileen Diamond has been frantically calling patients who did not show up for their appointments last week. Diamond knows women frequently cancel or don’t show up because they don’t yet have enough money to cover the cost of the procedure — and now she’s worried some might not know they have a deadline.

“I’m calling then, reminding them about the law,” said Diamond, who works at Benjamin Surgical Services International. When she can’t reach someone, she said, “it feels very debilitating.”

“I feel like this might have been their last chance to get an abortion,” she said.

Many patients just hearing about the law for the first time are shocked, she added.

“They’ll say, ‘I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know it was now.’”

Supporters of the new law say they’re relieved that a ban on most abortions is about to become a reality.

“It’s a fantastic milestone, and we’re extremely grateful for it,” said Aaron DiPietro, legislative political director for Florida Family Action, which has lobbied for the ban for years. “But I think, just as in any civil rights movement, it’s just the next step.”

In the lead-up to the referendum vote, DiPietro said his group and others will argue to Florida voters that the proposed amendment “is deceptive” and “out of touch with the vast majority of Floridians.”

Health care providers are continuing to work up to the last minute before the ban kicks in. A Woman’s Choice in Jacksonville had between 70 and 80 patients on the schedule for Monday, said Flynn, the head of the abortion clinics network.

The clinic usually sees between 10 and 15 patients a day.

Flynn’s network includes locations in North Carolina and Danville, Va. — where she expects to see an immediate spike in patient traffic.

“We’re going to find a way to make this work. My staff has even said, ‘Well, what if we worked Sundays?’” said Flynn. “We’re just going to do our best.”

U.S. abortion access, reproductive rights

Tracking abortion access in the United States: Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion has been left to individual states. The Washington Post is tracking states where abortion is legal, banned or under threat. 

Abortion and the election: Voters in about a dozen states could decide the fate of abortion rights with constitutional amendments on the ballot in a pivotal election year. Biden supports legal access to abortion, and he has encouraged Congress to pass a law that would codify abortion rights nationwide. After months of mixed signals about his position, Trump said the issue should be left to states. Here’s how Biden and Trump’s abortion stances have shifted over the years.

New study: The number of women using abortion pills to end their pregnancies on their own without the direct involvement of a U.S.-based medical provider rose sharply in the months after the Supreme Court eliminated a constitutional right to abortion, according to new research.

Abortion pills: The Supreme Court seemed unlikely to limit access to the abortion pill mifepristone. Here’s what’s at stake in the case and some key moments from oral arguments. For now, full access to mifepristone will remain in place. Here’s how mifepristone is used and where you can legally access the abortion pill.

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Lori Rozsa is a reporter based in Florida who covers the state for The Washington Post. She is a former correspondent for People magazine and a former reporter and bureau chief for the Miami Herald. Twitter

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