WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday returned to an abortion issue that nearly sank President Barack Obama’s health care law last year with legislation that bars an insurance plan regulated under the new law from covering abortion if any of its customers receive federal subsidies.

Providers that offer abortion coverage would have to set up identical plans without abortion coverage to participate in the health insurance exchanges to be set up under the new law.

The legislation, which passed 251-172, is unlikely to be considered by the Democratic-led Senate and faces a veto threat from President Barack Obama. But it gives House Republicans, focused this year on cutting spending and reducing the size of the federal government, a chance to reaffirm their credentials on social conservative issues. Democrats chided Republicans for wasting time better spent on promoting job growth.

Supporters of the bill, including author Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., say they are trying to close loopholes in the health care act that could lead to violations of the longstanding prohibition of the federal funding of abortion.

Opponents warn that millions of middle- and low-income women who receive partial subsidies to buy insurance would be denied abortion coverage. They said most providers were unlikely to set up two separate plans, one with abortion coverage.

The legislation also strengthens conscience protections for anti-abortion health care providers.