Florida - abortion - law While abortion is legal, it is not without obstacles. According to state law, abortions are allowed until 24 weeks of pregnancy in Florida. However, in April, DeSantis signed a law banning abortions in the state after 15 weeks.
Image via AP Photo/John Raoux, file.

The new 15-week ban, a limited number of provider clinics, and the high cost of the procedure limit access to abortions in post-Roe Florida, especially for low-income women.

What was feared by many is now a reality: Roe v. Wade has been overturned by the US Supreme Court. Despite the federal-level ruling, abortion is still legal in Florida, albeit limited, and further restrictions may be on the way.

“The constitution of the state of Florida has a clause that protects the right to privacy, which has been interpreted to include the right to abortion without government intervention,”  Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, executive director of Florida Access Network, an abortion fund dedicated to providing financial support and advocacy to people seeking abortion care, told Floricuas.

RELATED: Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade. What Does That Mean for Floridians?

Because of this clause, Florida has become a safe place for women from nearby states who want to have an abortion, but cannot in their home states because of anti-abortion laws.

“In other states of the South, even in North Carolina, abortion is not going to be accessible, but in Florida it is. From all the states where abortion was already prohibited, they were already traveling to receive these services. Even before the Roe v. Wade decision, it was already happening, and now it will continue, even if we have limitations,” Piñeiro said.

Limitations Abound

While abortion is legal, it is not without obstacles. According to state law, abortions are allowed until 24 weeks of pregnancy in Florida. However, in April, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law (HB 5) banning abortions in the state after 15 weeks. This law should go into effect on July 1 although it’s facing two lawsuits.

Another challenge facing people who want abortion care is that 73% of the state’s counties do not have clinics that provide abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. There are about 85 clinics that provide services throughout the state. According to US Census data, the population of women of reproductive age (ages 15-44) in Florida in 2020 was estimated to be 3.9 million.

Inflation has also affected access to abortion, Piñeiro said.

“With the economic situation that exists right now, where rent has increased, gasoline has increased, it makes it difficult to access an abortion. The person has to go to a clinic at least twice, to be able to access an abortion. That is double the gasoline, double the cost of child care. The economic aspect is the biggest constraint there is,” she said.

According to Piñeiro the cost of an abortion procedure starts at $600 and can go up to $3,000, $4,000, or $5,000, depending on how far along the pregnancy is. 

There’s a tendency to believe that all abortions are unwanted pregnancies, but that’s not always true, Piñeiro said. Sometimes a woman would love to have a baby, but she can’t afford it. In fact, research shows that six in 10 women who have abortions are already mothers.

Piñeiro remembers a single mother of five children who had COVID while pregnant and needed financial help from Florida Access Network.

“She felt ashamed to tell the person who was treating her for COVID in the hospital that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy. She knew what had happened to her body with COVID. When she got out of the hospital she contacted us and we were able to help her. We took her to the clinic, we paid for her abortion and she was able to continue with her life. She was a single mom with five children. She knows what it’s like to have a family, what it’s like to have children,” Piñeiro said.

What Will Happen Now in Florida?

Even though the Florida Constitution protects the right to abortion, Democratic lawmakers have expressed fear that Republicans will impose tougher laws or even an outright ban now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. They expect that to happen during a special session or when the Legislature meets again.

After Roe was overturned, DeSantis expressed his support for the Supreme Court’s decision. “The prayers of millions have been answered. For nearly fifty years, the US Supreme Court has prohibited virtually any meaningful pro-life protection, but this was not grounded in the Constitution’s text, history or structure,” DeSantis wrote in a short statement that he shared on Twitter. “Florida will continue to defend its recently enacted pro-life reforms against state court challenges, will work to expand pro-life protections, and will stand for life by promoting adoption, foster care and child welfare.”

One of the strongest pro-choice advocates in Florida is Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47), who thinks DeSantis will push an all-out abortion ban.

“Florida Republicans — including Gov. Ron DeSantis — are super awkward and uncomfortable talking about an all-out ban. They want to avoid it as much as possible because they know the second they commit to it, that it’ll wake up voters across the state of Florida. And that is not what they want to do before a November election year,” Eskammani said during a press conference in May.