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February 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Mississippi House and Senate voted Wednesday to pass legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the bill once both chambers hammer out lingering differences between the two versions.

Sponsored by Republican state Sens. Angela Hill and Chris Caughman, Senate Bill 2116 would require abortionists to test for a fetal heartbeat, and if they find one they could not commit an abortion unless a woman’s life or “major bodily function” is in danger. It passed 34-14 in the Senate while the House version passed 81-36.

“The pro-life community has waited years for the courts to recognize the obvious … that a baby with a beating heart is deserving of its life being legally protected,” Hill told LifeSiteNews last week. “I remember how thrilled I was to first hear the heartbeats of my own children. I knew that they were unique individuals growing inside my body. I was just their shelter and their food for (nine) months.”

Opponents in both chambers raised objections and offered amendments to add more exceptions to the bill, WLBT reports, but they were rejected. Democrat Rep. John Faulkner complained that women won’t have the “opportunity to have an abortion” if they don’t know they’re pregnant until after the heartbeat is detectable, while others raised the matter of the costs the state has already incurred by defending previous pro-life laws in court.

“What is a life worth?” Republican Sen. Michael Watson responded. “We can see more of what's happening in the womb […] I see in this country that we protect sea turtle eggs and we protect other endangered species of animals with a greater degree of scrutiny and zealousness than we protect a child in the womb that has a beating heart.

“The womb should be the safest place in the world for an unborn child. I'm asking Mississippi to be different,” he implored.

Democrat Sen. Deborah Dawkins objected to the bill. 

“For a rape victim, a transvaginal ultrasound becomes another intrusion into their already violated body, and there are no provisions for the physician or health care provider to opt out of this invasive medical procedure,” the Associated Press quotes her saying. 

In fact, the legislation leaves it up to the state health board to determine the “appropriate methods of performing an examination for the presence of a fetal heartbeat,” and transvaginal ultrasounds are routinely used by Planned Parenthood itself in abortions; they simply decline to show women the resulting images or sounds.

Once the chambers finalize the bill it will go to the governor for his signature. Bryant reiterated his support Wednesday, declaring he “want[s] Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child in America.”​​

Pro-lifers in Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee have also either enacted or introduced similar heartbeat bills in recent months.