Polish lawmakers refused Friday to kill proposed anti-abortion legislation that calls for prison sentences of as long as two years for anyone assisting a woman obtaining an abortion in the overwelmingly Catholic nation.

Following a morning of agitated discussion on the extremely controversial bill, the Sejm or lower house of parliament rejected, 230-120 with 32 abstentions, a motion to reject consideration of a bill "for the protection of the unborn child."The proposed bill is backed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church despite surveys showing a majority in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland oppose it.

The bill makes the doctor or anyone who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion - except for the woman herself - liable for up to two years' imprisonment. Exceptions can be made in case of threat to the woman's life or when pregnancy is the result of a crime.