The U.S. Senate has voted 65 to 32 to ban a controversial abortion procedure. The House of Representatives is expected to follow suit and President Bush says he will sign it into law.
A ban on so-called 'partial birth abortion' has been a priority for President Bush and Republicans who control Congress.
Mr. Bush immediately praised the vote as 'an important step toward building a culture of life in America'.
The legislation bans doctors from performing what the bill calls 'an overt act' to kill a partially-delivered fetus. It would apply to cases in which the entire head of the fetus is outside the mother, or in the case of breech of delivery, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the mother's body.
The bill includes an exemption in cases where the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother.
"It is nice to see that the United States Senate, when it sees evil, will do something to stop evil," said Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has been a leading supporter of the measure.
Opponents say the bill is unconstitutional.
"The proponents of this bill distort the law and the position of our side with inflammatory rhetoric, while advocating a bill that will not stop one single abortion," said Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.
The Congress has been debating the issue since 1995. It twice passed a ban, but President Clinton vetoed it each time. Congress was poised to pass the ban again in 2000, but stopped short after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law that was similar to the proposed congressional ban.
Supporters of the new congressional measure say it addresses objections raised by the high court. Opponents disagree, and say they will launch a legal challenge.