On Roe v Wade anniversary, House Republicans successfully push abortion curbs
Anti-abortion activists take part in the annual "March for Life" rally on January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US House Republicans pushed through a controversial bill tightening federal abortion restrictions Thursday, touching a raw nerve on the 42nd anniversary of the controversial Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

As pro-life demonstrators gathered in front of the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives voted 242-179 on a bill that would prevent women from using federal taypayer funding to pay for abortions or applying federally supported insurance coverage for abortions.

The bill would essentially make permanent a measure that for years has been inserted annually into spending bills that bar such federal funding for abortions.

A similar bill passed the House last year but died in the Democrat-run Senate. Both chambers of Congress are now controlled by Republicans.

The White House said Thursday that President Barack Obama would veto the bill if it passed the Senate and reached his desk, and warned the current bill goes further by restricting insurance coverage as well.

The vote comes hours after House leaders pulled a controversial measure that would have barred all abortions after 20 weeks except in the case of rape or incest, provided those cases were first reported to the police.

Some more moderate Republicans and women lawmakers in the party warned that approving that measure, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would alienate women and young voters.

But top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi argued that the replacement bill is "much worse" and would impact millions of women.

"This was not a success for women and their reproductive health," she said.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed astonishment that Republicans would move such legislation on the anniversary.

"It is with a perverse sense of cruelty that Republicans would choose today for an attempt to chip away at these protections," she said.

"Time and again, the American people have soundly rejected extreme Republican efforts to insert themselves into health care decisions best left to women, their family, and their doctors."

Conservative Senator Ted Cruz said most Americans backed abortion restrictions, as he railed against the "abortion on demand" allowed by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

"We are filled with grief for the nearly 57 million souls who will never have a chance to become the next teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, and heroes," Cruz said.

Pro-choice groups blasted Republicans for introducing several measures this year aimed at curbing women's abortion rights.

"These politicians have made it clear that their top priority in this Congress is to mount a ferocious new escalation of their war on women, aiming squarely at women facing the most difficult economic and personal circumstances," said Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup.