UPDATE: 6:20 p.m. EDT — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Thursday afternoon an expansion of the state’s abortion restrictions, a divisive issue that’s once again placed the state at the center of a national debate, as it was over gay rights last year.
Pence described the new restrictions as a “comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life,” the Indianapolis Star reported. The measure takes effect in July.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky immediately announced it would file a lawsuit contesting the new abortion restrictions. The organization is working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and expects to request a preliminary injunction.
Indiana is likely to add to its abortion restrictions this week, with a ban on abortions sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with a disability such as Down syndrome. The controversial law would also prohibit abortions based on the gender, race or national origin of a fetus.
Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has until the end of the day Thursday to sign or veto the bill, the Indianapolis Star reported. If he does not sign or veto the bill, it will still become law on Friday. The Republican-led Legislature would need a two-thirds vote to override a veto, which both chambers had when they passed the measure.
Indiana would become the second U.S. state to prohibit abortions based on the diagnosis of a disability, and some have said the law could be ruled unconstitutional. Republican state House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he expects a court challenge if Pence signs the bill into law, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.
After the state legislature passed the bill, a group of people delivered a petition to Pence asking him not to sign it, Indiana Public Media reported March 14. At the time, Pence said he would “give that very careful and thoughtful consideration” to the bill.
“But I do bring my belief in the sanctity of life to that, and that will inform the way that I evaluate that, ultimately,” Pence said.
The debate over the abortion bill brings attention back to Pence, who found himself with significant national media attention last year when he signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said could be used to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on the basis of freedom of religion.
The state’s new abortion law also includes provisions that require abortion providers to cremate or bury miscarried or aborted fetuses. It would make it a felony to transfer fetal tissue, which is targets Planned Parenthood and reminds Indiana residents of videos released last year that showed officials discussing how they sometimes allow scientists to use fetal tissue.
North Dakota is the only U.S. state that currently bans abortions based on fetal anomalies, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that tracks abortion laws. Arizona also prohibits abortions based on race, and seven states prohibit abortions based on gender.