Today, Florida Governor and man smiling for his Sears portrait studio photo Ron DeSantis (R), went to an evangelical church in Kissimmee to 1) sign an unconstitutional 15-week abortion ban and 2) wax poetic about human fetuses found in the basement apartment of an unhinged anti-abortion activist.
We’ll take these things in order. Florida’s bill is one of several 15-week bans states have passed this year, and that’s because the Supreme Court looks poised to uphold an identical law from Mississippi in the coming weeks—if not overturn Roe v. Wade entirely—in a blockbuster case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. If the Florida ban were to go into effect, it would not only force Floridians to travel out of state for abortions after 15 weeks, but it would also limit access for people across the Southeast for whom, until now, Florida has been something of a haven, with abortions allowed up to 24 weeks. (The Florida law wouldn’t take effect until July 1 and the American Civil Liberties Union has already promised to sue, explaining in a statement that the bill also violates a privacy clause in the state constitution.)
Now on to the fetus bit: Please recall that in late March, Washington, DC, police found five fetuses in the apartment of anti-abortion activist Lauren Handy. Handy is the director of activism at Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) and is facing separate federal charges for blockading the entrance to an abortion clinic. At an April 7 press conference, Handy revealed that they actually had 115 fetuses, which they claimed were obtained by a medical waste truck driver outside an abortion clinic, and suggested that the abortions of the five larger fetuses may have violated federal laws. None of this has been verified, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing media and dozens of members of Congress from jumping on the story. Fox News, in particular, referred to the fetuses as “infants” and “children”—incendiary language meant to incite violence against abortion providers.
DeSantis decided it was politically advantageous to get in on this. According to HuffPost, the governor went on a tangent about the fetus saga shortly before signing the bill into law:
“We just saw this terrible scandal in Washington, D.C. ... They found all these remains of babies and they found five who were basically infants, premature, they would have been able to survive outside the womb...And yet, Washington, D.C., is treating that just like we would treat the trash from our lunch or something like that. It’s really horrifying to see that that could go on in our country, but particularly in our nation’s capital. So that is callous, that is wrong. ... What we’re doing today, is saying that we will not let that happen in the state of Florida.”
This is predictable garbage. So predictable that I wrote this after the 115 fetuses press conference:
The group is likely using lurid imagery of fetuses from abortions later in pregnancy to drum up more support for banning abortion in the second and third trimesters. By the end of June, the Supreme Court is widely expected to uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, if not overturn Roe v. Wade entirely. Even a Wall Street Journal poll out this week suggested that while a majority of Americans want abortion to remain legal in all or most cases, more people supported a 15-week ban than opposed it.
But of course, anti-abortion groups like PAAU don’t want to stop at 15 weeks—they believe in fetal personhood, which would outlaw all abortions. Stunts like this one are a distracting sideshow.
Backers of 15-week abortion bans have tried to have it both ways, by framing them as both common-sense alternatives to six-week bans and as a first step toward them. DeSantis himself called the Florida bill “very reasonable” and said he opposed a Texas-style law, not because it banned abortions at six weeks, but because he didn’t like the bounty hunter mechanism. DeSantis will absolutely keep pushing for more abortion restrictions, and mentioning the fetus nonsense is pure distraction and a ploy to appeal to MAGA voters. Do not fall for it.