Where Things Stand: DeSantis Joins Mad Dash To Make Abortion Illegal Before Doing So Is Even Legal

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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 09: Florida governor Ron DeSantis is seen in attendance during the UFC 273 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

As he has with most trendy right-wing political stunts, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) refused to be left out of the abortion-banning race.

Across the political spectrum, there is an understanding that the Supreme Court is likely to use its ruling on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban to gut Roe v. Wade in some form or another — either by reversing it outright or by undercutting it substantially. Conservative justices signaled as much during oral arguments last year, stomping on any dreams abortion advocates might’ve had that the high court would go slow in its assault on Roe, and might be cautious about making Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization entirely about the precedent.

And as the deadline for the court’s summer rulings approach, red states across the country are scrambling to put in place abortion bans with varying degrees of severity to prep for that post-Roe eventuality. Many of the laws are similar to old laws that have been on the books in some states since before Roe, but that have not been in force. For example, the outright ban that Oklahoma’s governor signed into law the other day was nearly identical to one that has been on the books since the 1930s in Michigan (and one that the state’s Democratic governor is trying to ensure does not go into effect this summer).

The Oklahoma law won’t go into effect until August, 90 days after the state legislature adjourns next month (and, conveniently, around the time that Roe might not exist anymore). When Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed the bill into law on Tuesday, it became the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation at the time — making performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no exception for rape or incest; only legal in circumstances in which a pregnant person’s life is in danger.

But then Kentucky chose to one-up Oklahoma.

Kentucky Republicans overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of an abortion ban similar to and just as restrictive as Oklahoma’s last night. The main difference is that Kentucky’s law will go into effect immediately, giving abortion advocates no time to prep to challenge the law before it begins doing harm to pregnant people in the state.

It almost seems like the goal is for red states to create the illusion that there’s a groundswell of support for abortion bans in the country, seemingly gifting conservative justices something to point to if they decide to overturn Roe; a preemptive shrug, a built in defense. “See? Half the country wants to ban abortion anyways,” they could, theoretically, say.

DeSantis joined the effort today. While it seemed as though we had, in the anti-abortion bill writing sprint, blown past the now-quaint seeming conversation about “weeks” — with lawmakers going whole hog and embracing outright bans — DeSantis brought it back to an almost less extreme-seeming place. Using literal children holding “Choose Life” posters as political props, the Republican governor signed a 15-week abortion ban into law, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

While not as extreme as what we’ve seen in Oklahoma and Kentucky in the past week, it is still a highly restrictive law by all standards. And it’s a clear opportunity for DeSantis, with his political ambitions, to insert himself into a right-wing trend before said trend stops trending. With his reported 2024 intentions in mind, such participation in the cause du jour is a necessity. But the 15-week component is interesting, seen through that lens — Florida’s law is an opportunity for DeSantis to join the abortion-banning race without sticking his neck out so far that he alienates potential moderate Republican voters who might not be comfortable with the cruelty of the outright bans popping up around the country.

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