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Florida voters elected more pro-life lawmakers to their state legislature in November, paving the way for more legislation to protect unborn babies from abortion.

Abortion numbers are high in Florida, with more than 70,000 unborn babies aborted annually in recent years and most of them for purely elective reasons. But the newly elected state legislature has pro-life advocates hopeful about saving more lives in 2023.

WUSF Public Media reports the incoming Republican leaders have expressed willingness to consider legislation to limit abortions after 12 weeks or once the unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks.

Currently, Florida has a 15-week abortion ban. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the pro-life legislation in April, and new state health data shows a huge drop in abortions this year. The Republican governor said he is willing to sign more pro-life legislation, such as a heartbeat bill.

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State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Senate president-elect, recently voiced support for a 12-week abortion ban, according to the report.

But others are calling for even stronger protections for unborn babies. A heartbeat bill, for example, would ban almost all of the nearly 70,000 abortions annually by prohibiting elective abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. Pro-life advocates want to see all unborn babies protected from abortion, but it is not clear if a total abortion ban would pass the state legislature.

Right now, Florida is a destination state for abortions. Most neighboring states protect unborn babies by banning all or most abortions, and Planned Parenthood Florida spokeswoman Melanie Williams told WUSF that their patient numbers have tripled.

“… we have people coming from Mississippi, Alabama and Texas,” Williams said. “There are situations where we may have to call Florida patients who have an appointment on the books and ask them if they can push it back a little bit because we have somebody from another state who may be right on that cusp at 14 weeks.”

Yet, state data shows abortions are down this year, with approximately 11,000 fewer abortions in the first 11 months compared to 2021.

The massive decline comes despite the uptick in the number of abortions involving out of state women and their unborn babies. As the Miami Herald reported this week: “The number of out-of-state abortions performed in 2022, not including December, was 5,439. The full year prior, it was 4,873.”

The good news is the increase does not equal the drop in abortions in other states — meaning the abortion bans in surrounding states are saving the lives of thousands of babies.

However, the number of second trimester abortions also increased this year.

“Something that the 15-week abortion ban was designed to stop or at least curb dramatically. Unfortunately, we just haven’t seen the numbers bear that out,” Andrew Shirvell, with Florida Voice for the Unborn, told Action News JAX.

That also gives the state legislature more reason to pass further restrictions on the killing of unborn babies in abortions.

Florida reported 79,817 abortions in 2021. In the first 11 months of 2022, state data shows 68,217 abortions. Almost all of the unborn babies were aborted for purely “elective reasons,” the reports show.

Recent polls show public support for greater legal protections for unborn babies, such as heartbeat laws and bans on abortion after the first trimester.