Florida’s 6-Week Abortion Ban Takes Effect: ‘Not Survivable’

In November, the state will vote on whether to enshrine a right to abortion—but that’s six months away. For the foreseeable future, Floridians—along with the rest of the South—will live under a devastating abortion ban.

Florida’s 6-Week Abortion Ban Takes Effect: ‘Not Survivable’
Thousands of people rally in Orlando, Florida in April to protest the state’s Supreme Court ruling. Photo: Shutterstock

On Wednesday, Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last spring, officially went into effect. For months, the bill was temporarily blocked, pending a lawsuit at the state Supreme Court that challenged the state’s 15-week ban. But in April, the court ruled the ban could take effect, while simultaneously allowing a ballot measure to possibly enshrine a right to abortion in the state Constitution to move forward in November. 

While reproductive rights advocates celebrated the approval of the ballot measure, it doesn’t change reality: The state now lives under a near-total abortion ban. For about two years, Florida was the last state in the South where abortion was at least somewhat available (through 15 weeks). Now, abortion seekers in the region have been plunged into even deeper chaos. Calla Hales, executive director of A Preferred Women’s Health Center, oversees two clinics in North Carolina (where abortion is banned at about 12 weeks), as well as two clinics in Georgia. North Carolina is now the closest state where, if someone isn’t past 12 weeks pregnant, they might be able to access abortion care. Hales called Florida’s six-week ban “not just not sustainable, but not really survivable.”

In 2023, Florida provided 80,000 abortions, which included an estimated 7,000 people who traveled from another state. According to the state’s health care administration, more than 1,300 of the 15,000 abortions performed in Florida so far this year were for out-of-state patients. And, as HuffPost’s Lydia O’Connor points out, Florida’s geographical isolation “means many patients there will have to cross multiple state lines to get an abortion.”

“This is now 80,000 people without anywhere to go,” Hales said. “The logistics of fitting that in somewhere else is not only mind-boggling but probably impossible.” Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director for the Floridians Protecting Freedom coalition that’s leading the way on the abortion rights ballot measure, told reporters earlier this month that the six-week ban “is the largest single loss of care that we’ve seen since the overturn of Roe.”

Planned Parenthood’s motto has always been ‘care no matter what.’ And we don’t turn patients away,” Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel last week. “So, this is a very devastating and tragic situation for our staff, who have to say, ‘We can’t take care of you, we have to send you someplace else.’”

In November (which is six months away), under state law, the abortion rights ballot measure will have to receive a substantial 60% of the vote to pass—and this is a state where voter suppression is notoriously rampant. If it does pass, the process of validating and enforcing it could be a whole ordeal in itself, as we’ve seen in Ohio. In the meantime, abortion will be inaccessible in the state, and consequently, even more inaccessible for Southerners in neighboring states where abortion was already banned.

Hales told Jezebel she hopes that the law taking effect “pushes people to truly comprehend how devastating abortion bans are and have always been.”

“Since [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health], there’s been a lot of, ‘Oh, it’s bad, but they can go to another state,’ and trying to silver-lining our way through this,” Hales said. “But that’s just not feasible anymore. It never was.”

People in need of abortion care in Florida can still seek support from abortion funds in the state here. You can donate to Florida abortion funds here

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