North Dakota is getting closer to passing the most restrictive abortion laws in the country after the state senate on Friday passed a bill banning the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
That would outlaw abortions in most cases as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-dominated legislature also passed a second bill that would restrict abortions sought solely because of a genetic abnormality, the first law of its kind, or to select the sex of the child.
The NY Times reports that Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Arizona have all banned abortions for the purpose of gender selection.
"The images and heartbeat from the womb provide strong and overwhelming evidence of - at the very least - potential life," Republican state Senator Spencer Berry told Reuters.
"And we have been instructed by the Supreme Court to protect that very potential."
The "heartbeat" bill presents a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
According to Reuters, the bill provides exemptions to prevent "irreversible impairment" or save the life of the mother but includes no exemptions for rape.
Both bills would need to be signed by Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple to become law.
Abortion-rights groups are preparing themselves for a legal fight if the Governor decides to sign the bills.
AP reports that North Dakota, with its $2 billion budget surplus, is in a good financial position to take on a long and costly court battle.
Republican Rep. Bette Grande, who introduced the measures, said that fears about the cost of a legal challenge should not prevent the state from tightening North Dakota's abortion laws.
"I don't look at it from the financial side of things," Grande told The Associated Press on Friday. "I look at it from the life side of things."