South Florida prosecutors aren’t saying if they’ll enforce state’s strict new abortion ban

abortion ban
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle with, center, Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor and Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg

By Noreen Marcus,

Going by the book, anyone who violates Florida’s new six-week abortion ban commits a felony and faces up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine. A repeat, three-time offender is looking at 10 years in prison.

But criminal penalties aren’t central to the heated public debate about abortion that has fired up almost every politician from an outraged President Joe Biden to a beleaguered former president Donald Trump.

The debate doesn’t include South Florida state prosecutors. Asked by Florida Bulldog whether they’re taking steps to enforce the new ban, Democrats Katherine Fernandez Rundle of Miami-Dade, Harold Pryor of Broward and Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County had little to say.

“Our office will continue to review every matter submitted to us by law enforcement on a case-by-case basis,” Aronberg’s spokesperson Marc Freeman wrote in an email. Media reps for the other two chief prosecutors also sent neutral, bureaucratic responses.

Trump promised in a Time magazine interview that if he’s reelected, he’ll allow state authorities to search for scofflaws by monitoring pregnant women. Red states like Florida would be free to set up registries and transform “The Handmaid’s Tale” into dystopian reality.

Co-president of the Florida League of Women Voters Cecile Scoon


Trump was acknowledging, if only indirectly, a simple truth: Abortion bans are tough to enforce, even when police and prosecutors decide to devote resources to tracking, arresting and holding violators accountable. Calls from anti-abortion snitches accomplish nothing without official support.

“We all have to budget our resources,” said Cecile Scoon, co-president of the Florida League of Women Voters and a former military prosecutor. “You try to marshal your resources to address the most immediate, serious and far-reaching crimes.”

By the same token, politically sensitive, elected prosecutors may not feel motivated to pursue charges against doctors and women who refuse to risk infertility, life-changing illness or death from sepsis to comply with a state directive that didn’t exist before May 1. Some women don’t even know they’re pregnant until more than six weeks have elapsed since their last period.

Medical emergency horror stories that women have shared in Texas and other states with near-total abortion bans are inspiring campaigns for reproductive rights in Florida and elsewhere, Scoon noted. The League supports Amendment 4, the pro-choice ballot measure Floridians will vote on in November.

Scoon said Republican lawmakers in other states have learned the hard way that narrowing rights has consequences. “It’s been a big loser for them.”

“Our legislators understood there were gonna be people caught in this no-woman’s-land where, how sick do they have to be before care is rendered?” she asked.


“I hope and pray that our legislators and courts do everything they can to avoid placing every Florida woman in healthcare jeopardy,” Broward State Attorney Pryor said in a statement on June 30, 2022, the day the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Everything about Florida abortion politics shifted after that day.

Most recently, on April 1 the Florida Supreme Court approved the more severe of two strict abortion bans that Gov. Ron DeSantis wanted and the Republican-dominated Legislature passed. DeSantis signed the first abortion ban before a joyous crowd in broad daylight; he signed the second stealthily at night.

abortion ban
Andrew Warren

A month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution asked prosecutors nationwide to pledge they would not file abortion-related charges. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren was the only Florida prosecutor to sign the pledge.

Within weeks DeSantis suspended Warren, claiming the pledge and other statements proved his “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.” Warren sued in federal court to reclaim his office, has won so far, and is running for reelection.

Florida Bulldog asked Warren if he thinks a show of solidarity by his fellow Democratic state attorneys might have made a difference.

He wouldn’t speculate on that, but wrote that DeSantis’s “politically-motivated … behavior is poison to a free society, and it’s not surprising that it has scared some elected officials from exercising their constitutional rights and speaking out against the governor’s radical agenda.”


DeSantis chose Federalist Society member and Hillsborough County Court Judge Susan Lopez to replace Warren as state attorney in Tampa. Asked about her plan for enforcing the new ban, Lopez slammed opponents’ “scare tactics.”

“We will not implement the scare tactics many people want to use by providing misinformation about what the law says and does,” Lopez’s spokesperson Erin Maloney wrote in an email. “As prosecutors, our responsibility is to follow the law.”

Florida’s first abortion ban, with a 15-week cutoff, was in effect from July 1, 2022 to May 1 and didn’t yield a single criminal case that reached the internet.

Still, it would be wrong to conclude the law failed. It succeeded as a deterrent and the new ban will intensify that effect, Scoon said.

“There will be monitoring and self-monitoring and changes of behavior in the hospitals and other care providers to protect themselves from liability,” she said.

On May 1 Florida, which had been an oasis for women from Southern Red states, became an abortion desert. Out-of-state patients accounted for about 7,700 of the 84,000 abortions performed in Florida last year, Reuters news service reported.

Now Florida women who need the procedure must travel to North Carolina, the closest state where abortion is still legal, or as far as Washington, D.C., Virginia, New York or Illinois. Travel will be cost-prohibitive, and possibly dangerous, for many of them.

Or, if they can still find a healthcare provider willing to risk liability and prosecution, they can get an abortion closer to home.

Scoon said if she could counsel Florida prosecutors about enforcing the six-week abortion ban, she’d tell them this: “Look carefully at what’s on your plate. You already have tremendous demands on your time and your resources. Ask how impactful a case will be in terms of the community.”

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Latest comments

  • The law is the law, or is the law only the law if you’re a conservative as it is in the federal, deep state bureaucracy?

    I hope Desantis crap cans any prosecutor who improperly uses prosecutorial discretion just like he did to the Hillsborough county prosecutor a few years back. That termination stuck!

    Desantis is a great governor. No, we won’t all agree on all of his decisions, but got the most part; he has made Florida great again!

  • Our imbecile governor has taught the wise to keep their cards close to their vests, and these should do so. Just because a Jersey Shore mope who got the votes of barely 20% of Floridians his last time out thinks its his right to impose his patriarchal Righty Christofascist agenda and indoctrination on our entire state doesn’t mean the SAs elected by voters who disagree should bow to him. The hell with him and his cult. He has nothing but scorn for the foundational law of our state and our nation – the constitutions of Florida and the USA, and has proven it over and over and OVER again. Let him shake his oily fist into the wind.

  • And by the way, Les, that termination DIDN’T “stick.” It STUNK. And the federal courts said so. The federal court said DeSantis LIED about his reasons for canning Warren, and that his misdeed – his tyrant’s scorn for the 365,000 Hillsborough County voters who elected Warren, was unconstitutional. That’s PERIOD, Les. Get your facts straight.

  • And by the way, Les, that termination DIDN’T “stick.” It STUNK. And the federal courts said so. The federal court said DeSantis LIED about his reasons for canning Warren, and that his misdeed – his tyrant’s scorn for the 365,000 Hillsborough County voters who elected Warren, was unconstitutional. That’s PERIOD, Les. Get your facts straight. Wise up and turn your back to brain-dead MAGA tyranny. It’s the definition of “UN-AMERICAN.”

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