​This New Abortion Ban Could Wipe Out Abortion Access in the South

A Florida six-week abortion ban could decimate abortion access for everybody in the South.
An abortion rights activist holds a sign at a protest in support of abortion access on July 13, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by John Parra / Getty Images)
An abortion rights activist holds a sign at a protest in support of abortion access on July 13, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by John Parra / Getty Images)

Florida state lawmakers are set to vote Monday on legislation that would ban almost all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—a ban that, if it takes effect, would decimate abortion access in the South.  

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Florida became a haven for people seeking abortions as one of the few states left in the South that permits abortions. In 2022, more than 82,000 abortions were performed in Florida compared to roughly 75,000 abortions in 2020, when Roe was still the law of the land, according to data from the state’s health care administration agency. But if this proposed six-week ban passes, cutting off access to abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant, that number could plummet. 


People often first notice that they’re pregnant when they miss a menstrual period, which usually occurs at around four weeks of pregnancy. If Florida’s ban passes, a  pregnant person may only have up to two weeks to realize they are pregnant, make a decision to end that pregnancy, and find a place to do it.

The six-week ban is widely expected to pass the Republican-controlled Florida Senate on Monday, while a companion bill is making its way through the Republican-controlled House. 

Under the new bill, physicians are only allowed to dispense abortion pills in person. Abortions in cases of rape or incest would also only be allowed if the pregnancy is less than 15 weeks along. The patient must also provide records to back up any claim that a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, such as a restraining order, police report, or medical documents. Experts say these kinds of exceptions rarely work in reality. Rape is a notoriously underreported crime; out of every 1,000 rapes, just 310 are reported to police, according to RAINN, the nation’s premier anti-sexual assault organization. 

Two physicians must also certify any claim that a fetus has a fatal anomaly, and the patient must not be in the third trimester. Some fatal anomalies can only be detected later into pregnancy.


With abortion access in Florida virtually decimated, patients in nearby states will have fewer options. If they miss the six-week window in Florida, pregnant Southerners would likely have to travel to North Carolina, which is already seeing a crush of abortion seekers, or even further to haven states like New Mexico and Illinois. Because roughly half of people seeking abortions live below the federal poverty line, that kind of travel could be financially impossible for many.

Abortion is already banned in Florida past 15 weeks of pregnancy, which abortion rights advocates have criticized as an arbitrary and cruel deadline. Still, in the two months after Roe’s overturning, Florida provided an estimated 1,010 more abortions than it had in the two months before the end of Roe. 

“At both our Tallahassee and Jacksonville centers, prior to Roe falling, we saw about 30 to 40 patients a day. Now, on a typical day, we’re seeing an average of 80 to 85 patients a day,” Ina McDonald, who manages a Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida health center in Tallahassee, Florida, told reporters late last year. “We are seeing patients from states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina—pretty much, the South.” 

“We had a very, very young patient who showed up after traveling many, many miles to our clinic without shoes, without very, very basic necessities,” added Dr. Shelly Tien, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, when asked earlier this year if he would sign a six-week abortion ban into law, said, “We're for pro-life. I urge the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign.”