Washington: The Republicans-dominated US House of Representatives has approved a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a vote slammed by women's rights activists as 'unconstitutional'.
The House voted 242 to 184 in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The House has said it would veto the bill.
"The bill continues to add a harsh burden to survivors of sexual assault, rape and incest who are already enduring unimaginable hardship," said Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary.
"The bill puts women's health and rights at risk, undermines the role doctors play in health care decisions, burdens survivors of sexual assault, and is not based on sound science," said Hillary for America Senior Policy Advisor Maya Harris.
"In just the first three months of 2015, more than 300 bills have been introduced in state legislatures -- on top of the nearly 30 measures introduced in Congress - that restrict access to abortion," Harris said.
The Act would ban abortions from 20 weeks after fertilization. "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," said Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for health and reproductive rights for the National Women's Law Center in a statement.
The bill includes exceptions for the life of the mother, and for cases of rape or incest. "As we remember the second anniversary of Kermit Gosnell's conviction for brutal and tragic abortion practices, Congress is taking action to prohibit abortions proven to cause pain and suffering for unborn infants," said Charles Boustany, Republican Congressman, one of the co-sponsors of the bill.
"These aren't just fetuses. These are babies just like the ones we see in Neonatal Intensive Care Units in hospitals in our area struggling for life, needing love," said Congressman Joe Barton.
Currently 24 States including Louisiana have already acted to ban late-term abortions. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the US is currently one of only seven countries worldwide, including North Korea and China, which allows elective late-term abortions.
"This vote is just the latest measure in an unprecedented series of Republican assaults on women's health care this Congress, from restricting how women can spend private money in purchasing coverage to enabling DC employers to fire women for buying birth control," said Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader.