The House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on Wednesday.
The measure passed mostly on a party line vote, 242-184, with one member voting present.
Earlier this year House Republican leaders were forced to cancel a vote on the legislation, known as the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” when several female House Republican members rebelled against it. They argued some provisions dealing with exceptions for rape could threaten the party’s efforts to attract support from women and younger voters.
The original version of the legislation included a requirement that women who seek abortion services after being sexually assaulted file a police report to back up any claim of rape. The revised bill removes any mandatory reporting requirement for sexual assault. It also includes a new provision requiring rape victims receive medical attention and counseling 48 hours before they can obtain abortion services.
Democrats railed on the bill on the House floor, calling it “extreme” and accused Republicans of taking up the measure for political reasons, pointing out the late term abortion ban is popular among religious conservatives. Others pointed out the vote came during National Women’s Health Week.
Pro-abortion rights groups also blasted the vote.
“Once again, some members of Congress think politics – not medical expertise or a woman’s health – should drive important health care decisions,” said Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for health and reproductive rights for the National Women’s Law Center in a statement.
“Passing an unconstitutional nationwide ban on later abortions does nothing to help women – instead, it threatens their health and lives and interferes in their personal medical decisions,” she said.
But GOP supporters of the measure maintain that bill is to protect the unborn, who can’t speak for themselves. They also emphasized that the vote comes two years after the conviction of physician Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering babies by severing their spinal cords.
An emotional House Speaker John Boehner gave a rare floor speech, noting he grew up with 11 brothers and sisters.
“I didn’t need my parents to tell me that every child is a gift from God. But let me tell you, they did – early and often. Because that respect – that sanctity and dignity – is everything,” a teary Boehner said.
It’s unclear when the Senate could consider the measure, but even if it was approved the President is unlikely to sign it, having pledged to veto the earlier version in January.