Florida's 6-Week Abortion Ban Is About To Go Into Effect

Florida is just hours away from its six-week abortion ban going into effect, largely cutting off abortion as an option for the thousands of patients who’ve traveled to the state for reproductive care following the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Starting Wednesday, patients in Florida, one of the country’s most populous states, will no longer have until the 15th week of pregnancy to access the procedure.

When the ban takes effect, nearly every Southern state will have outlawed abortion or made it inaccessible after six weeks since the first day of the last menstrual period ― a window of time when many don’t yet know they’re pregnant. Florida’s geographical isolation means many patients there will have to cross multiple state lines to get an abortion, and residents in neighboring states will often have to travel farther, too.

Virginia, the closest state to Florida with no gestational limits on abortion, takes anywhere from nine to 14 hours to drive to from the Sunshine State.

Protesters rally earlier this month in Orlando, Florida. The state's new six-week ban on abortion will take effect Wednesday.
Protesters rally earlier this month in Orlando, Florida. The state's new six-week ban on abortion will take effect Wednesday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

So far this year, more than 1,300 of the nearly 15,000 abortions performed in Florida (about 8%) were for patients who came from out of state, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. That percentage was about the same as for all of 2023, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade with its decision upholding a 15-week ban in Mississippi.

When the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the state constitution does not protect abortion care, greenlighting the six-week ban that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a year ago, abortion rights advocates emphasized what a massive effect it would have on health care.

“This is the largest single loss of care that we’ve seen since the overturn of Roe v. Wade,” Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, said at a news conference earlier this month. “What we know is that Florida is a state that is mostly surrounded by water, and where it’s not surrounded by water, it’s surrounded by states that already have total or near-total bans ― meaning that even for patients who need to access medically necessary abortion, the road to do so will be hard.”

Floridians Protecting Freedom is the group behind a pro-choice amendment set to appear on the state’s ballot in November. If passed, the right to an abortion would be protected up until fetal viability, which is usually at about 24 weeks.

But for now, Floridians will be stuck with the six-week ban. Florida abortion providers have been racing against the clock to provide care before the ban begins Wednesday. The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that abortion clinics were expanding their hours and adding appointment slots in the final days of the 15-week ban.

“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 Sentinel. “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.’”