Indiana Enacts Harsh New Abortion Restrictions

Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland

In Indiana, women will no longer be able to have an abortion due to the baby being born with a disability, as the state’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial bill on March 24 that makes Indiana’s abortion laws among the strictest in the nation.

Though Indiana already has comparatively restrictive abortion laws, House Enrolled Act 1337 will significantly tighten them and prohibit pregnant women from aborting based on disability or physical characteristics of the baby, reports the Indy Star.

"HEA 1337 will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child's sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability, including Down syndrome," Pence said in a statement. "Some of my most precious moments as Governor have been with families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome."

The bill has brought the state into the center of a divisive national debate. Some, like anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Live, have praised Pence for signing the controversial measure.

“Gov. Pence has long been a champion for the unborn and their mothers,” Mike Fichter, the organization's president, said in a statement. “ ... We are pleased that our state values life no matter an individual’s potential disability, gender or race.”

Others have railed against Pence’s action, saying that it imfringes on women’s rights.

"The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted on March 24.

Critics have questioned how the abortion ban will be enforced, since women are not currently required to explain why they wish to have an abortion, as well as how this law will impact patients’ abilities to speak openly with their doctors.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced shortly after the bill passed that they would work with the ACLU of Indiana to legally challenge the bill.

"It is clear that the governor is more comfortable practicing medicine without a license than behaving as a responsible lawyer, as he picks and chooses which constitutional rights are appropriate," Betty Cockrum, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement.

Indiana prohibits most abortions that take place after 20 weeks of pregnancy, although this new law could ban women from aborting even earlier, before a fetus can survive outside of the womb. This, according to critics, may make the law unconstitutional.

Even some anti-abortion lawmakers in the Indiana House have said the law was poorly written and inadequately vetted.

Sources: Indy Star, Bernie Sanders/Twitter / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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