Florida is on the brink of enacting a bill that would ban abortion at six weeks after the last menstrual period—before many people would even realize they’re pregnant. The state Senate passed the bill, which also restricts telehealth access to the abortion pill, on Monday; the House, whose version of the bill doesn’t even offer a rape exception, will vote on it this week. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has, of course, vowed to sign the ban into law.
As Republicans radically shift the Overton window to the right in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I would just like to remind everyone that six-week abortion bans are violent, extreme, and unacceptable. They amount to a total ban on a safe, common health care procedure—especially in a state like Florida, where a pregnant person has to make two in-person doctor visits and endure a 24-hour waiting period in between to access abortion, which Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen points out is “a challenging logistical burden at 15 weeks and would be nearly impossible at six.” And as numerous doctors have pointed out—a six-week-old embryo is a clump of cells that is roughly the size of half a TicTac mint. It is not a person.
It’s worth remembering right now that just a few years ago, many Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists regarded six-week bans as being too extreme for their political calculations. In 2018, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed one such bill, with a handful of Republicans in the legislature opposing it, too. NPR noted that even Ohio’s Right to Life chapter deemed the so-called fetal “heartbeat” bill “too radical.”
Almost a year after the fall of Roe v. Wade, nearly a dozen states have totally banned abortion, in most cases without rape exceptions. Florida is about to go from allowing abortion up to 24 weeks, then 15 weeks as of last year (which one Republican lawmaker insisted was “generous”), to six weeks. To be clear, there’s no such thing as an abortion ban that isn’t extreme—at any point in pregnancy, with any amount of stated exceptions. There’s no such thing as “compromise” or a moderate stance on whether the state has the authority to invade your body and force you to remain pregnant or give birth.
Yet, as states leap from banning abortion at, say, 24 weeks, to six weeks, or even from conception, it’s become abundantly clear that they don’t care about optics anymore, because they know they don’t have to. With every abortion restriction passed while Roe was in tact, and now, in the absence of Roe, the state violence and indignity of forced pregnancy and birth are so normalized that a new six-week ban is hardly making national news at this point.
As Jezebel’s Caitlin Cruz wrote last year, Republicans have been grooming us for years to accept fewer and fewer rights over our own bodies, between the varying bans on trans health care and the rash of 15-week abortion bans that passed prior to the fall of Roe last year. Now, the third largest state in the nation is about to effectively end abortion in the South (especially now that North Carolina, as of this week, has the votes to override the Democratic governor’s veto on their abortion ban), and the Republican Party and mainstream media are running with it.
Pregnant and pregnant-capable Floridians deserve better, to say the least. Advocates in the state have fought it with everything they have: Rape victims have testified before the state House that abortion bans present “a second rape.” Democratic lawmakers who joined protesters outside the state Senate were arrested on Monday—all while cops routinely turn a blind eye to anti-abortion protesters harassing clinics, or participate in the harassment themselves. Yet, even as Floridians sound the alarm on the bill, we’re expected to accept it as a post-Roe reality.
Abortion bans derail people’s lives and will inevitably kill people. They render pregnant people more vulnerable to long-term domestic violence and poverty, all while maternal mortality rates soar in states where abortion is banned. They create a climate wherein every pregnancy becomes the object of state surveillance, every pregnancy loss a potential crime scene, and hospitals would rather literally shutter their labor and delivery services than risk criminal liability for doing their jobs.
This isn’t normal—or at least, we shouldn’t ever allow it to be.