Florida outlines medical exemptions to 6-week abortion ban

May 2, 2024

Florida health officials on Thursday outlined a series of limited medical exemptions to the state’s six-week abortion ban. 

The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration issued the rule a day after the ban took effect, which effectively cut off abortion access across the South.  

According to the rule, “preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), ectopic pregnancy, and molar pregnancy … can present an immediate danger to the health, safety, and welfare of women and unborn children in hospitals and abortion clinics if immediate and proper care and treatment is not rendered.”

The measure specifies that if a physician attempts to induce delivery to treat the premature rupture of membranes and the fetus does not survive, it is not considered an abortion. 

It states that treatments for a trophoblastic tumor, a rare tumor that forms where the placenta attaches to the uterus, are also not considered abortions.  

The agency said it needed emergency rulemaking because pregnant people and babies were at risk “due to a deeply dishonest scare campaign and disinformation being perpetuated by the media, the Biden Administration, and advocacy groups” to misrepresent the abortion law. 

Florida’s six-week ban was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year. Its implementation was tied to a state Supreme Court case regarding a separate measure prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Once the court upheld that measure in early April, the six-week ban was triggered to take effect 30 days later.

The six-week ban includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest and human trafficking up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. It also allows physicians to terminate a pregnancy if necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.” 

But doctors in states with abortion bans across the country have said they struggle to navigate unclear and sometimes contradictory exceptions to the laws.  

Health care providers say state abortion laws contain too much uncertainty and don’t protect them if they need to perform an abortion. As a result, stories about pregnant patients in medical distress being turned away from hospitals or being told to wait in a parking lot until their life is in danger are becoming common.  

The Supreme Court last week heard arguments in a case challenging Idaho’s near-total ban on abortions on the grounds that it violated a federal law requiring physicians to provide stabilizing treatment to a patient in an emergency, even if that treatment is an abortion.