The most intriguing aspect of this Times article is determining which pro-life advocates are becoming impatient with DeSantis and which are not.
Who are the locals in Florida? Impatient. They are pleased that DeSantis has signed into law a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, but it is insufficient. Why not impose a six-week ban, as Texas did last year? Moreover, why not a complete ban? Both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature are under Republican control. Nothing but cold feet and political calculation can stop them now.
However, who are the national pro-life leaders? They are extremely patient. “Ron DeSantis is one of the best governors in the country, and I believe he will work to pass the most conservative bill possible through the Legislature,” said the head of Concerned Women for America in response to a question from The New York Times regarding DeSantis’ recent low profile on abortion. Ralph Reed added, “There are no concerns or reservations regarding his pro-life beliefs… In light of this, I believe he will be able to make his own decision regarding the next steps to be taken with legislation to protect unborn children.”
National leaders are preparing for the possibility of President DeSantis and avoiding making him an enemy. Local leaders are concerned with the present and want Governor DeSantis to do more.
DeSantis himself is conflicted between these two possibilities. In a purple state, the 15-week ban is a deft compromise with which the majority can live. However, ardent pro-life advocates find this unacceptable, given that the vast majority of abortions occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. The impact of DeSantis’s new law on abortion practices in Florida will be minimal, leaving him in a bind. If he immediately pushes a more draconian law, he risks a voter backlash in his gubernatorial race this fall. If he does not immediately push for a more draconian law, he will be obliterated in a 2024 primary by Greg Abbott, who has spent the past two years trying to keep up with DeSantis on policy.
“I too am the governor of a purple state, but I had no qualms about banning abortion at the first opportunity!” Abbott will speak during the debate. What will DeSantis say in response? Who is the winner of the “he fights!” bragging rights?
The media has begun to notice DeSantis’ uncharacteristically low profile regarding the decade’s most heated culture war debate. As have a number of his allies.
Though he has expressed his desire to prevent late-term abortions — a far less controversial position than advocating for an outright ban — he has not called a special session to enact additional restrictions, as anti-abortion activists hope he will…
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, a conservative Christian organization, stated, “There are enormous expectations.” I believe he understands that this is something that must be addressed. …
Andrew Shirvell, founder and executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, referred to Mr. DeSantis as a “tremendous ally for the pro-life movement” but expressed frustration with his silence on abortion since the Supreme Court’s decision.
“It is disappointing that the governor does not speak out more on this issue,” he stated. “However, I attribute this to other pressures occurring in the months preceding the election.”
State Representative Anthony Sabatini, one of the loudest populists in Florida’s government, believes that the authorities are dragging their feet on passing a total ban. However, Sabatini is ambitious and understands the rules of flattery in the modern GOP, so he was careful to blame the legislature for the slow pace of reform rather than DeSantis. “It’s a cowardly excuse they’re using to deflect public pressure to act,” Sabatini said of the strategy of “letting the litigation play out.” “It is evident. If you are truly pro-life, you will do everything possible to strengthen protections for unborn children. They’re simply delaying the inevitable because they don’t want to deal with it.” To clarify that he was not blaming DeSantis, he added, “The governor is constantly forced to carry the Legislature on his back because it’s filled with cowards.”
I have no idea, Anthony. The governor also does not appear to be in a hurry to introduce a new bill.
The ongoing litigation over the 15-week ban is the reason why DeSantis has not moved to pass new legislation. It is believed that the legislature can return to pass a stricter ban after allowing the litigation to proceed and awaiting the decision of the staunchly conservative Florida Supreme Court. But this is nothing more than a ploy to buy time. The legislature could immediately pass a new ban of any duration, rendering the 15-week ban moot. Simply put, DeSantis does not want to address this issue prior to Election Day out of fear that a stricter ban would increase Democratic voter turnout against him.
And he has reason to be concerned. New information from his home state obtained through the University of South Florida:
Fewer than thirty percent favor a total ban on abortion, with or without exceptions. When asked if they would like to see Congress pass a federal law prohibiting abortion nationwide, only 21 percent responded in the affirmative.
Not a major concern for DeSantis. In order to protect his right flank in the 2024 presidential primary, I expect him to move swiftly to enact a stricter abortion ban once he’s safely past reelection. But until November? He will attempt to lay low.
The question is whether his circumstances will be favorable. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is now one of the most liberal abortion regimes in the southern United States and in any Republican-controlled state. In the coming months, it is likely to attract pregnant women from neighboring states who cannot afford to travel across the country to obtain an abortion. “Florida under Ron DeSantis has become an abortion mill” is not a headline that would help DeSantis in the 2024 primaries. If this is the result of the 15-week ban, he will have to act sooner than he prefers.
One Florida Democrat has a novel strategy for his party and for DeSantis to escape the abortion wars:
A popular referendum is the obvious way to maximize the number of people in a given state who view its post-Roe abortion regime as fair and legitimate. A referendum would also absolve DeSantis of political responsibility for whatever decision Floridians make. “The people have spoken,” he will proclaim. How could Abbott or any of his 2024 opponents criticize him for pro-choice laws enacted by referendum?
To put abortion on the Florida ballot, however, three-fifths of both houses of the Florida legislature would need to support doing so. Therefore, multiple Republicans in each chamber would need to agree to disempower their own caucus — and DeSantis — by delegating this issue to the electorate rather than enacting legislation themselves. Does that seem likely? If DeSantis agreed, Abbott and others would use his consent against him in 2024. “He never fights! He kicks off!” On this subject, the governor has no simple answers.