A Pennsylvania congressman introduced a pro-life bill Thursday to ban abortions across the U.S. once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

Erie Times-News reports U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is the lead sponsor of the Heartbeat Protection Act (House Resolution 705) in the U.S. House.

“All people have a right to life including unborn babies who are the most vulnerable and voiceless among us,” Kelly said in a statement. “A beating heart is the clearest sign of life. Tens of millions of human beings have been lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade, but we can and must act to prevent that fate for future generations.”

The bill would require abortion practitioners to check for a heartbeat prior to an abortion and prohibit the abortion if the baby’s heartbeat is detected. Typically, a heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed if the mother’s life is at risk. Abortionists who violate the legislation would face criminal penalties.

Kelly’s bill has 41 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans. National Right to Life, the Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council support the bill.

A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but all have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups. States with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. South Carolina also appears poised to pass a heartbeat bill this winter.

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Polls suggest many Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.

Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.

Though the high court currently has a conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by a Republican president, has sided with the liberal justices on a number of occasions.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

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