WASHINGTON — Republicans finally won House approval Wednesday for a late-term abortion ban after dropping rape provisions that provoked a rebellion by female Republican lawmakers, forcing party leaders into an embarrassing retreat.

The near party-line 242-184 vote marked a victory for anti-abortion lawmakers and organizations.

The vote by Maine’s delegation was along party lines with Democrat Chellie Pingree voting no and Republican Bruce Poliquin voting yes.

The path to passage took months of negotiations among those groups, female lawmakers and party leaders, underscoring how tough it will be for Republicans to satisfy anti-abortion forces while retaining support from women voters for next year’s elections.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the bill “the most pro-life legislation to ever come before this body,” adding, “We should all be proud to take this stand today.”

Even with House passage, the measure stands little chance of becoming law. Its fate is uncertain in the more moderate Senate and President Barack Obama would likely veto it, leaving it chiefly a way for the GOP to underscore its backing for the anti-abortion goals of some of its most ardent supporters.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest contrasted the measure’s strictures with the usual Republican demands for keeping government out of people’s lives, saying, “The bill continues to add a harsh burden to survivors of sexual assault, rape and incest who are already enduring unimaginable hardship.”

The legislation forbids most abortions starting with the 20th week of pregnancy.

In January, Republican leaders abruptly postponed a vote on the original version, which permitted rape victims to have abortions only if they’d reported the assault to police. The new bill instead requires those women to receive medical care or counseling at least 48 hours before an abortion.

Republican women and moderates objected that the initial bill clamped harsh requirements on women making stressful decisions and could make Republicans seem callous.

“This has a much less punitive substance to it,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., who said she’d now support the legislation.


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