Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs new abortion restrictions into law

Gov. Pence speaks at a press conference on March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis.

Story highlights

  • Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed a bill that bars women from seeking an abortion because the child will be born with a disability
  • Indiana already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation

Washington (CNN)Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed a bill that bars women from seeking an abortion because the child will be born with a disability, a controversial restriction that is one of the tightest abortion laws in the country.

Indiana already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, and Pence called the bill, House Enrolled Act 1337, a "comprehensive pro-life measure."
    "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," he 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."
    Pence has never shied away from legislation that advances the agenda of social conservatives, pushing a religious freedom bill last year that some LGBT rights activists claimed promoted discrimination. He later signed into law a "fix" for the bill.
    On Thursday, Pence's bill rose into the national political fray, with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticizing Pence.
    "The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana," Sanders tweeted.
    Indiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in the state, saluted Pence for forbidding women to discriminate against "the unborn."
    "We are pleased that our state values life no matter an individual's potential disability, gender or race," Mike Fichter, the organization's president, said in a statement.
    In 2013, North Dakota became the first state in the country to pass a law that banned abortions due to abnormalities in the child's genes, among other restrictions.