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Florida Gov. DeSantis open to new abortion law, but doesn’t want to turn citizens against each other

The Republican governor seemed to initially be open to introducing a Texas-style abortion law in Florida, but his spokeswoman now says that might not be ‘on the table.’

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis initially said he would consider legislation in his state with abortion restrictions similar to those enacted under a new Texas law. But now he appears to have concerns about a key provision in the law that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone else who knowingly aids or abets a procedure.

“Gov. DeSantis doesn’t want to turn private citizens against each other,” Christina Pushaw, a DeSantis spokeswoman, told Buzzfeed News in an article published Saturday.

Pushaw told The Hill on Tuesday that “the governor has not indicated that the same legislation recently enacted in Texas will be on the table in Florida.”

“At the same time, nothing is off the table,” Pushaw said in a statement. “All the Governor has said is that he’s looking into what the best option might be in terms of legislation to protect life.”

On Sept. 2, the day after the Texas law took effect, DeSantis said at a news conference that he would “look more significantly at [the bill],” calling the private-lawsuit means of enforcement that the law relies on “interesting.”

“I’m pro-life; I welcome pro-life legislation,” DeSantis said.

If both DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — two governors making waves in the Republican Party for their staunchly conservative policies — run for president, they’d face off head-to-head in the 2024 GOP primaries.

Florida state Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican, has also said he doesn’t support the provision in the Texas law that offers a $10,000 bounty for lawsuits against providers or anyone who aids or abets an abortion.

‘”Certainly that’s not something I would support, neighbor telling on neighbor or calling in, things of that nature,” Simpson said, according to News Channel 8 in Tampa. “We have privacy in this state for a reason.”

After the Supreme Court’s late-night decision to uphold Texas’ law, allowing it to take effect, several GOP governors signaled their support for the law, saying they’d look into introducing similar bills in their states. According to The Associated Press, Republican lawmakers in at least half a dozen states said they planned to introduce bills using the Texas law as a model.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, tweeted that “following the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the pro-life TX law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro life laws on the books in SD.”

Legislators in Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, North Dakota and South Dakota were quick to say they were considering pushing Texas-style bills in their states. But DeSantis is not the only Republican to express some hesitancy — Republican Glenn Youngkin, a GOP candidate for governor in Virginia, said while he’s “pro-life,” he supports exceptions in cases of rape and incest — exceptions notably not included in the Texas law.

And while Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Texas law as a “procedural victory” for abortion opponents, he said the state should wait to file any new legislation until the stringent anti-abortion law he signed in March receives a final judgment.

“I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we’ll see,” Hutchinson told CNN in March. A federal judge has blocked the law for now.

Still, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who helped push the Texas law, said he expects other states to follow Texas’ lead.

“This law will save the lives of thousands of unborn babies in Texas and become a national model. I pray that every other state will follow our lead in defense of life,” Patrick said in a statement.

The Texas law, which prohibits abortions as soon as an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers call a fetal “heartbeat,” has been subject to harsh criticism from Democrats at the local, state and national levels.

President Joe Biden has criticized the provision that allows private citizens to sue, saying it could create “a vigilante system.”

“Just take a look at what’s happening in states like Texas. They just passed a law empowering complete strangers to become bounty hunters, going after women who exercise their right to choose,” Biden said Monday at a rally in Long Beach, Calif., for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election.

“Now other states say they’re looking to replicate the Texas law. If you don’t think women’s rights are under assault, you’re not looking. California, keep Gavin Newsom and send a message to the nation. Women are to be respected and their rights protected,” Biden said.

The Justice Department has already filed suit against the law in federal court, hoping to block it and blasting Texas for deputizing legal “bounty hunters” to deter a procedure that remains legal, technically, under state law and Supreme Court precedent.

Emily Caldwell. Emily Caldwell is covering politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News. She is from College Station, Texas, and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May with degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She spent a number of years at The Daily Texan, UT's student newspaper, and was the editor-in-chief this past year.

emily.caldwell@dallasnews.com @EmilyECaldwell
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