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As of May 1, most abortions in Florida are banned beyond six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant.

But voters in Florida have the option to restore access to abortion up until the time of viability, when a fetus can survive outside the mother’s womb, with a ballot initiative known as Amendment 4, which will appear on the state’s general election ballots on Nov. 5.

As of May 1, it is a felony in Florida to perform or participate in an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, about two weeks after a missed period. The ban has exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking and in those cases allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The current six-week ban, which has been labeled “extreme” by abortion-rights groups, women’s groups and Democratic Florida lawmakers, went into effect after the state Supreme Court on April 1 upheld Florida’s prior ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

The court ruled that people’s rights to privacy, which are guaranteed in the state constitution, did not extend to abortions. On the same day, the same high court approved the language for Amendment 4, allowing voters to decide the state’s abortion laws.

“The six-week ban is an insult to women and a direct attack on our fundamental and reproductive healthcare rights. I trust women to be able to make their own decisions in life and decide what is best for themselves,” Florida State Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat, said in April 2023, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the six-week ban with little fanfare late at night. “Just over a year after reducing the number of weeks to obtain an abortion to 15, the legislature has once again decided to take up the issue of women’s bodily autonomy by looking to reduce the already limiting time constraint to a mere six weeks.”

Floridians are still required to wait 24 hours between two separate doctor appointments before getting an abortion. The bill also prohibits medications that will induce an abortion from being prescribed via telehealth appointments, and requires in-person consultation with doctors. 

“Many women may not be able to confirm their pregnancy until week four, and now the state of Florida expects them to get appointments with two doctors and make this kind of a major decision in just a couple of weeks? Many people may have irregular menstrual cycles and might not be aware they have missed a period. This entire piece of legislation is ludicrous, unrealistic, and a major overreach by Florida’s government into our everyday lives, and in essence this bill is a complete ban on abortion,” Stewart said last year.

The ban does include exceptions to save the mother’s life and for cases of rape and incest, but with restrictions.

Other abortion-rights advocates pointed to the broader damage Florida’s new ban could have on surrounding Southern states, many of which have banned abortion almost entirely. Women in those states often viewed Florida as an option where they could come for an abortion. But that’s no longer the case, even for women who can afford to travel for an abortion.

Those who oppose abortion and support the six-week ban called it a win.

Florida State Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican who sponsored the six-week ban, said, “We live in a time where the consequences of our actions are an afterthought and convenience has been a substitution for responsibility. This is unacceptable when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable.”

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.