Republicans in the House of Representatives attached an anti-abortion rider to a Homeland Security spending bill Thursday. The provision would do nothing to change existing policy and is unlikely to make it past the Senate, but it is seen as sending an election-year message to the lawmakers' conservative constituents.

In what was probably not intended as a deliberate rebuke to Republican president candidate Mitt Romney, the Homeland Security bill caters to state and local governments by increasing funding for first responders like police and fire departments, while cutting funds from the widely unpopular Transportation Security Administration.

The anti-abortion rider, proposed by an Alabama Republican, would prevent Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from funding abortions for illegal immigrants in its custody, except in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the life of the mother. It passed on a party-line vote, 234 to 182.

According to an ICE spokesperson, however, the agency has never paid for abortion services.

The House also passed a provision to block spending for the newly created ICE post of public advocate. The office, which is intended to deal with questions and complaints about immigration policy, has been accused by Republicans of putting the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of those of Americans.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this summer.

Photo: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.