WASHINGTON, D.C., October 13, 2011 ( – The U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance a bill amending the federal health care legislation to prevent the use of taxpayer money to fund abortion or abortion-covering insurance plans, and to protect the conscience rights of health care workers.

The rule for the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, passed 248-173 Thursday afternoon nearly along party lines, reports the Hill. The rule is closed, meaning that attempts to alter the bill through additional amendments are not allowed.

The final vote on the bill is expected later today. It is expected to pass.

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Even if it does pass the House, however, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, not to mention a veto threat from President Obama. In a statement yesterday, Obama said that he “strongly opposes” the bill because it “intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care,” claiming the health care bill already preserves federal policy against tax funding for abortion.

“H.R. 358 goes well beyond the safeguards found in current law and reinforced in the President’s Executive Order by restricting women’s private insurance choices,” said the White House in a statement Wednesday. “If the President is presented with H.R. 358, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

Pro-life leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, contend that the Protect Life Act is critical for preserving the status quo on abortion and conscience rights in the face of a health reform that promises to drastically alter the landscape of the abortion battle in America.

The measure would amend President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to reflect the Hyde amendment by prohibiting taxpayer dollars from funding any health plan that includes coverage of elective abortions. The measure retains Hyde’s exception for abortions performed due to the child’s conception in rape or incest or to save the mother’s life.

The bill also makes clear that no health insurance carrier may be forced to provide coverage of abortion in any of its health plans, and strengthens the conscience rights of health care workers and institutions to reject abortion training, procedures, or referrals.