A Florida House committee advanced heartbeat legislation Thursday that could save tens of thousands of unborn babies from abortion every year.

The Pregnancy and Parenting Support Act (House Bill 7) passed the state House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee in a 13-5 party line vote, and pro-life leaders expressed optimism about it becoming law, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The legislation would protect unborn babies by banning most abortions once their heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed for rape, incest and cases when the mother’s life is at risk or to avert “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.”

“It’s a bill that recognizes the importance and the value of the life of innocent unborn human beings,” said state Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers, the lead sponsor, according to the report.

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Other parts of the bill prohibit state taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortion travel and require abortion drugs to be provided in person by a licensed medical doctor.

According to the Sentinel, several Democrat lawmakers attempted to amend or reject the bill during the committee meeting Thursday, including state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, but their efforts failed.

Republican lawmakers also plan to increase support services for pregnant and parenting families as part of their pro-life agenda.

Here’s more from the Tampa Bay Times:

Similar legislation filed in the Senate also includes $25 million for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network Inc., which oversees Florida’s pregnancy support services program. That program was created to “encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term, and increase awareness of non-abortion counseling options, such as parenting or adoption,” according to the House staff analysis.

Currently, abortions are legal for any reason up to 15 weeks, and tens of thousands of unborn babies are aborted every year, including 82,192 last year alone, according to state health statistics.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Florida became an abortion destination for women in neighboring states that banned abortions. But that could change if the heartbeat bill passes.

Most abortions are done after the unborn baby’s heart is beating, and the legislation could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Pro-life advocates expressed optimism about the bill, noting how Republicans control the legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis recently promised to support stronger protections for babies in the womb.

“The fight for life has momentum in Florida,” said SBA Pro-Life America southern regional director Caitlin Connors on Thursday. “We thank Rep. Jenna Persons Mulicka for sponsoring this bill and all of the House members who voted for life this morning. This is the first step to saving tens of thousands of babies each year in Florida.”

A recent poll commissioned by SBA Pro-Life America and the Florida Family Policy Council found strong public support for the legislation, with 62 percent of Floridians in favor. This included 71 percent of independents and 65 percent of women.

Florida has been making progress for life in recent months. DeSantis signed a law to ban abortions after 15 weeks in 2022, and he recently promised to support even stronger protections for babies in the womb. He also supports eliminating the sales tax on baby supplies, including diapers, wipes, cribs and strollers.

Last year, his administration shut down a Pensacola abortion facility after state health inspectors said it nearly killed three women in botched abortions within a span of nine months.

Then, earlier this month, state Attorney General Ashley Moody won another victory for life when a federal judge said the state may defund the billion-dollar abortion chain Planned Parenthood.

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