The U.S. House of Representatives has voted for a bill that would ban most abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. The bill, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was approved on a 242 to 184 vote, with one representative voting present.
The bill would ban all abortions after week 20 with exceptions only for women with life-threatening conditions, women who have been raped and who have gotten medical care or counseling at least 48 hours before seeking an abortion, and girls under 18 who reported rape or incest to law enforcement or child protective services.
The vote split along party lines in the Republican-led house. An earlier version of the bill was delayed by Republican leaders when women Republican representatives objected to some wording. That version of the bill would have required women who had been raped to report their assault to law enforcement in order to be eligible for an abortion after 20 weeks.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the Roe v. Wade case that the right to privacy extended to a woman's decision to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside of the womb, which is usually considered to be 22 to 24 weeks after fertilization.
The title of the bill refers to arguments that a fetus can experience pain by 20 weeks into the pregnancy. However, several medical organizations, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say that medical research shows that pain is unlikely to be experienced before the third trimester, or last 12 weeks of pregnancy.
However, the bill will need to pass the Senate and such passage is not certain. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, says that he supports the bill, but it is not expected to receive immediate consideration in the Senate.
The Obama administration strongly opposes the bill.