WASHINGTON (BP) -- A congressional committee has approved a bill seeking to place a limitation on the District of Columbia's unfettered abortion policy.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 18-14 Wednesday (July 18) to send the District of Columbia Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the full chamber. The vote on H.R. 3803 came along party lines, with Republicans in the majority.

The legislation would prohibit abortions in the District of Columbia at 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.

If enacted, it would provide a restriction in a jurisdiction that has legalized abortion throughout pregnancy until birth. In its findings, the bill points out the D.C. council "repealed all limitations on abortion at any stage of pregnancy" in 2004.

Congress has authority over the District of Columbia under the U.S. Constitution.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land urged committee leaders in a July 18 letter to back the bill.

"t is alarming that Congress ... allows this heinous practice of aborting pain-capable unborn children to continue in the nation's capital," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "This atrocious practice must be stopped."

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said in a written statement, "A vote against this bill amounts to a vote to ratify the extreme policy currently in effect in the nation's capital.... Under the Constitution, members of Congress, and the President, are ultimately accountable for this extreme policy."

Democrats on the committee proposed three amendments to the bill, but all met defeat.

Seven states have similar pain-capable abortion bans, according to NRLC.

Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net