(Reuters) Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law making Indiana only the second state to prohibit abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of disabilities such as Down syndrome.
The bill, which was approved by the state Republican-led legislature, bans any disability-related abortion along with terminations of pregnancy based on race, gender or national origin.
"I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable - the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn," Pence, a Republican, said in a statement after he signed the legislation on Thursday (March 24).
Republicans ushered the bill through the state legislature over the last three months despite opposition from some conservative lawmakers, including Representative Cindy Kirchhofer, who felt the measure was too restrictive.
"I feel this is government overreaching," Kirchhofer told the Indianapolis Star newspaper, adding that she did not have enough time to properly vet the bill with her constituents.
North Dakota is the only U.S. state that prohibits abortions based on fetal anomalies. Seven states ban those based on gender, and Arizona prohibits those based on race, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that tracks abortion laws.
A petition circulating on Moveon.org that hoped to persuade Pence to veto the bill had more than 5,600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
The legislation adds "shame, stigma and barriers at a time when the most critical need is medically accurate information and compassionate care," it said.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien)