Washington: The Republican-led US House of Representatives passed two anti-abortion measures Friday, highlighting intense efforts to inject the controversial issue into a spending debate two weeks before a potential government shutdown.
Lawmakers voted largely along party lines to halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation`s largest women`s health care services provider, for a year while Congress conducts investigations on the organization.
It has been mired in controversy since secretly recorded video surfaced showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research.
Critics say the videos show the group intended to sell fetal tissue. The group has denied the charge, insisting its officials were merely discussing how they obtain the tissue and legally provide it to researchers.
The videos have outraged many Americans, particularly conservatives, who have used the scandal to intensify their attacks on the organization and demand an end to all public funding for Planned Parenthood.
The House also adopted a separate measure that provides for criminal penalties for health care workers who do not attempt to provide adequate care for infants who survive abortion procedures.
"Those who would deny the weakest among us the right to life are on the wrong side of history," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement applauding the votes.
Nearly all Democrats voted against both bills, which are almost certain to be blocked by the Democratic minority in the Senate. President Barack Obama has also pledged a veto.
Public funding accounts for some 40 percent of the budget for Planned Parenthood`s roughly 700 clinics, which provide medical services including breast exams and other screenings, and conducts millions of tests for sexually transmitted infections.
The group`s abortions are funded through private sources, a distinction that Republicans insist is illusory. US law has long prohibited the use of public funding for virtually all abortions.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton blasted the House vote to defund the group as "an attack on women`s health -- nothing more, nothing less. Republicans should be ashamed."
The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday, two days before Pope Francis speaks to a joint meeting of Congress, on a bill that bans all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but Democrats have the numbers to defeat it.
The abortion dispute threatens to disrupt haggling over funding for the new fiscal year.
Lawmakers will have a handful of workdays to agree to the terms of a temporary spending bill that would prevent the government from shutting down on October 1.
But hardcore conservatives have pledged to oppose any spending bill that does not defund Planned Parenthood.
That has frustrated some Republican moderates who warn that pushing another bitter shutdown fight, like the one that closed the government for 16 days in 2013, could only hurt Republican chances in the 2016 presidential election.