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No Abortion Ban Is 'Generous,' Despite What Republicans May Say

One Florida lawmaker described a 15-week abortion ban as "generous," because "life begins at conception." Do not buy this framing.

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Florida state legislators are in the process of fast-tracking a 15-week abortion ban—which mirrors Mississippi’s bill currently before the Supreme Court—to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who’s already expressed his support for it. And in the face of the usual backlash that comes with state attempts to force pregnant people to give birth and reduce them to government-controlled ovens, Republican lawmakers aren’t just getting defensive — they’re literally patting themselves on the back.

Republican state Rep. Dana Trabulsy told the Washington Post this week that 15 weeks to get an abortion—a time frame during which some people still may not realize they’re pregnant, or may have just realized they are and begun the maze-like logistical process of trying to get an abortion—is actually a “long time.”

“Because I believe life begins at conception, that’s [the 15-week ban is] generous,” Trabulsy said.

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Trabulsy’s colleague in the state Senate, Sen. Kelli Stargel, echoed the sentiment, insisting that the ban’s proponents aren’t “banning anything” (they literally are) or “being mean.”

But it’s Trabulsy’s comment that’s drawn the most outrage. Thanks for your charity, ma’am, but there’s actually no such thing as a “generous” abortion ban. The bill could come with guaranteed income, housing, health care, and full college tuition for expecting parents, and it would still be forcing someone to endure the physical and mental duress of carrying an unwanted pregnancy, placing them at greater risk of poverty, domestic abuse, and worsened health outcomes.

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It’s also worth noting that Florida lawmakers voted against adding an exception for rape to the bill. Ineffective as these exemptions (which force pregnant survivors to report their rape to law enforcement) may be, the exclusion of an exemption suggests Florida “pro-lifers” are no longer even pretending to care about rape victims.

In any case, we’re about to see a lot more comments like Trabulsy’s in praise of the mercy and generosity of any abortion ban that isn’t a near-total ban like Texas’ SB8, which incentivizes citizens to spy on and sue each other. Florida isn’t the only state considering a 15-week ban right now—Arizona and West Virginia both have nearly identical bills on the docket, and the Supreme Court is likely to either uphold Mississippi’s 15-week ban, or reverse Roe v. Wade altogether in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. SCOTUS at varying points has simultaneously considered Texas’ ban before passing it down to a lower court, fueling direct comparisons between SB8 and Mississippi’s law that naturally frame a 15-week ban as “generous.”

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DeSantis’ hesitancy on the prospect of adopting a Texas-style abortion ban, which would ban abortion at six weeks and be enforced by a deputized citizen police force, is strategic—he and other anti-abortion politicians, and likely the Supreme Court later this year, are trying to plant the toxic, dehumanizing idea that we can “compromise” on something as fundamental as bodily autonomy. But Roe itself is a compromise, the literal floor in a country that has economically and geographically pushed abortion care out-of-reach by shutting down hundreds of clinics in recent years, banned public funding for most abortions, and routinely criminalizes people for the outcomes of their pregnancies, or self-managing their abortions with medication.

As Jezebel has reported before, anti-abortion politicians have long disingenuously pointed out that the US is one of just seven countries alongside China and North Korea that allow “elective” abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Even though many countries in Europe hold more prohibitive abortion laws after the first trimester, pregnant people and new parents in these countries are offered robust supports. Birth control and abortion are covered by universal health care, eliminating many of the major cost barriers that delay someone’s ability to get an abortion in the US.

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Just six to seven percent of abortions take place at or after 15 weeks in the US, but that fraction still encompasses tens of thousands of people each year. It’s really no one’s business why anyone seeks abortion care, though it’s worth noting many people who have abortions after the first trimester faced pregnancy-related complications, and or were unable to get care earlier in the face of barrier after barrier, restriction after restriction, and the inhibitive costs of the procedure, travel, lodging, child care, and lost wages from missed work.

About 90% of US counties lack an abortion provider. Florida itself is a labyrinth of abortion restrictions, particularly for minors who need parental consent or can be denied an abortion by a judge who doesn’t think their GPA is high enough.

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Any and all abortion bans require the dehumanization of pregnant people, and specifically poor, pregnant people of color who are less likely to have the resources to circumvent these bans. Whether at 15 weeks, 20 weeks or any other entirely arbitrary, stigmatizing, and dangerous marker, there’s no such thing as a “generous” ban on essential health care.