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An unborn child's heartbeat can be detected as soon as 18 days after conception, and supporters of a bill slated to be unveiled in the Ohio Legislature Wednesday say that women should be prohibited from ending pregnancies beyond that milestone.
State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann is planning to unveil the "Heartbeat Bill" and a legislative aide for the Republican tells Fox News that 42 of the 99 representatives in the Ohio state House have signed on to the bill, which would make an exception to the heartbeat rule only in emergency medical situations.
According to 2009 data from the Ohio Department of Health, 56.6 percent of abortions in that state occur in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. And since the fetal heartbeat appears on monitors by six weeks into gestation in most cases, supporters of the bill believe that it could prevent thousands of abortions.
"When the Heartbeat Bill passes, it will be the most protective law in the nation," Janet Folger Porter, president of conservative advocacy group Faith2Action, said in a release. Porter helped craft the bill, and was also instrumental in passing the nation's first ban in partial-birth abortion when she was legislative director of Ohio Right to Life.
While the legislation must still be proposed in the state Senate and a court challenge could derail the plan, advocates for the bill hope that if the Ohio measure is successful, other states will follow suit with similar laws. A website created to tout the bill urges supporters to send heart-shaped balloons to the governor and state representatives by Valentine's Day. A music video on the site features babies dancing to the tune of Nena's "99 Red Balloons" -- retooled with pro-life lyrics.
But pro-choice group NARAL has equated the bill to "political interference" into a private medical issue.
"Our state is facing crushing budget deficits and talking about slashing Medicaid funding for thousands of Ohio women, yet these politicians are focusing on an extreme and unconstitutional bill that, if passed, would entangle our state in a costly legal battle," Kelly Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, told Fox News.
And though Porter and former Ohio Right to Life president Linda Theis vocally support the Heartbeat Bill, the pro-life organization's current executive director says the legislation is destined for failure.
"Unfortunately, the Heartbeat Bill will not survive a court challenge, and therefore not save one life," Ohio Right to Life executive director Michael Gonidakis told Fox News, arguing that state courts and the Supreme Court would slap down the heartbeat cut-off in the same way they would reject a full abortion ban. "Because the Supreme Court, unfortunately, has ruled on countless occasions that any restrictions on abortion pre-viability are unconstitutional," he says.
Gonidakis instead supports a late-term abortion ban that has passed the state House and is slated to be introduced in the Ohio Senate Wednesday. As for the Heartbeat Bill, Wachtmann's office says there has also been talk of introducing a companion bill in the Senate, and is optimistic that it, too, will move to the upper chamber for consideration.
Fox News' Megan Dumpe contributed to this report.