Will Florida Republicans go further on abortion restrictions next year?

'We can't really do anything until the Florida Supreme Court weighs in on the 15-week [ban],' Senate President Kathleen Passidomo says
Posted at 6:02 PM, Dec 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 18:03:18-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — What's next for abortion in the Sunshine State? Legislative leaders aren't certain as we get closer to the next lawmaking session, which begins in March.

The push from anti-abortion groups is already underway. Activists flooded the capitol rotunda in Tallahassee during the organizational session in late November.

The governor has also started fielding questions at press conferences. The most recent came last week.

An attendee asked if Gov. Ron DeSantis was ready to "take a lead regarding the heartbeat bill for Florida?"

"I'm willing to sign great life legislation," DeSantis said in response. "That's what I've always said I would do."

However, getting a bill on DeSantis' desk might be easier said than done.

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, sounded open to further restrictions during a recent news conference but Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said she'd likely wait for the Florida Supreme Court to act on the state's current 15-week ban before going further.

"We can't really do anything until the Florida Supreme Court weighs in on the 15-week. As you all know, it's in litigation," Passidomo said last Thursday. "If the Supreme Court strikes it down, we start over again."

While we don't have a timeline, justices are considering whether to uphold an injunction blocking the law, which opponents believe violates Florida's privacy protections.

If the courts uphold the new law, Passidomo said she would support a 12-week ban with exceptions for rape and incest. Though she noted there would likely have to be room for compromise.

"Like every bill," she said, "how can we negotiate something that makes sense and can pass?"

Meanwhile, Democrats, like House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, are taking a different approach. She's working with the White House to "shine a light" on the issue.

"I'll tell you that most Americans support abortion access, as do most Floridians," Driskell said.

Driskell hoped President Joe Biden's bully pulpit would offer some leverage and dissuade Florida Republicans from going further, especially after the November midterm election.

"Everywhere that abortion was on the ballot, including states that are far redder than Florida — I'm talking Montana, Kansas, Kentucky— voters rejected further abortion restrictions," Driskell said.

For the moment, lawmakers have yet to file any abortion legislation for next year. That’s only a matter of time. The big question won't be if bills are filed, but whether leaders take them up when there is still so much uncertainty on the issue.