Florida’s Pro-Life ‘Heartbeat’ Law Takes Effect

(Oregon Right to Life) — Florida’s strongest pro-life law took effect last week after the state Supreme Court ruled that the Florida Constitution did not protect a “right” to abortion.

The law, known as the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” took effect May 1 and will protect most unborn babies after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (typically at around six weeks gestation), with narrow exceptions. 

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation in April 2023, but enforcement of the law was stalled pending a determination of its constitutionality by the Florida Supreme Court. Last month, the court handed down a 6-1 decision finding that abortion was not protected under the state constitution. Specifically, the Court ruled that there was “no basis” to “invalidate” the state’s more moderate 15-week abortion limit, which was signed into law in January, 2022, and was met with a legal challenge that progressed all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

The Court’s April, 2024 ruling cleared the way for both the 15-week limit and the six-week heartbeat law to take effect.

READ: Florida Supreme Court Allows Heartbeat Bill to Take Effect, OKs Dangerous Pro-Abortion Ballot Initiative

Today, Florida’s six-week law is anticipated to put an end to the “abortion tourism” boom seen in the Sunshine State following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson to overturn Roe v. Wade. Citing reports from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, NBC News noted that 9,300 women traveled to Florida for abortions in 2023, more than double the number who made the same trip in 2020. 

Abortion-seeking women began traveling to Florida from nearby southern states that had enacted tough laws protecting the unborn. By comparison, Florida’s laws had remained relatively lax due to a 1989 precedent suggesting the Florida Constitution protected a “right’ to abortion. Now, however, thanks to the state Supreme Court’s April decision, Florida law more closely aligns with the statutes of its pro-life neighbors.

Advocates for the unborn have celebrated the six-week law as a big step forward for the Sunshine State. 

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver predicted in a statement that the Florida law “will save countless lives…”

“Florida has taken efforts to provide a sanctuary for life, especially the most vulnerable, and provide significant financial resources for women to provide a wide range of options and resources that would protect them and facilitate their decision to choose life,” Staver also said, according to NBC. Additional legislation signed by Gov. DeSantis in 2022 allocated $25 million in the state budget to provide resources and support for pregnant women and families in need.

But there is still much work to be done to ensure protections for Florida’s most vulnerable.

While the heartbeat bill has been hailed as a major win for pro-life advocates and Florida’s unborn, the future of pro-life legislation in the state is somewhat tenuous due to a pro-abortion ballot initiative that could derail the state’s pro-life progress.

Amendment 4, which was given the green light by the Florida Supreme Court last month, could see the addition of a constitutional amendment explicitly safeguarding abortion access. The amendment would define abortion as a “right,” sharply limiting the freedom of elected legislators to pass protections for the youngest of Floridians. 

Florida Right to Life has described the proposal as “extreme” and vowed to defeat it.

Voters will decide whether or not to adopt the ballot proposal when they vote on November 4. Thus far, all abortion-related ballot initiatives proposed in states across the country have been decided in favor of protecting abortion, rather than the unborn. Florida voters will have the opportunity in November to reverse that trend.

The proposed amendment will need 60% supermajority approval to pass.

Oregon Right to Life believes in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Abortion ends the life of a genetically distinct, growing human being. We oppose abortion at any point of gestation. Read this and all of our position statements here.


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