WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Tuesday approved a nationwide ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks of fertilization, a restriction that abortion rights supporters say violates the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
The measure has no chance of passing the Democratic-majority Senate.
The 228-196 vote was the latest effort by conservatives, particularly by Republicans in the House, to limit legal abortions.
The bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is similar to one last year that was aimed at residents of Washington, D.C. The vote then was 220-154, but the bill failed because the House considered it under an expedited process requiring two-thirds majority for passage.
The current House bill would ban abortions beyond 20 weeks after fertilization. That could equal to as early as 22 weeks of gestation, or the age of the fetus, which is based on the first day of the woman’s last menstruation.
The constitutional standard for legal abortions is when the fetus can survive outside the womb. Today, that’s generally considered to be at 24 weeks of gestation.
All four House Republicans from Washington — Reps. Dave Reichert of Auburn, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas and Doc Hastings of Pasco — voted in favor. The four also backed the similar measure last year that would have applied only to the District of Columbia.
Late-term abortions are rare. In 2009, there were 784,507 reported legal abortions nationwide, according to most recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The gestational age was known in 71 percent of those cases. Of those, 1.3 percent were performed at 21 weeks or beyond. Two-thirds of abortions occur before eight weeks of gestation.
Hours before Tuesday’s vote, members of the House Pro-Choice Caucus held a press conference to denounce the bill. Among them was freshman Rep. Suzan DelBene of Medina, the only female among the Washington delegation’s six House Democrats. Three other Democratic representatives for the state — Jim McDermott of Seattle, Adam Smith of Bellevue and Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor — belong to the caucus as well.
The two others, Reps. Rick Larsen of Everett and Denny Heck of Olympia, also support abortion rights.