Washington (AFP) - Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday waded into the growing debate in the United States about the hot-button issue of abortion, urging the Supreme Court to bar "selective" abortions based on sex, race or potential disability of the fetus.
The comments by Pence, a devout Christian who signed anti-abortion bills while serving as governor of Indiana, coincide with moves by Republican-led legislatures in several states to restrict access to the procedure.
Opponents of abortion are seeking to eventually challenge the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in the case of Roe vs Wade, which made abortion legal nationwide.
In the latest moves, the only abortion clinic in Missouri may be forced to close and the legislature in Louisiana inched closer to passing a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
Early on Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld part of an Indiana law signed during Pence's tenure as governor that requires the remains of aborted fetuses to be cremated or buried, but sidestepped a separate case on the "selective" abortions clause.
A lower court had struck that segment of the law down, and the Supreme Court said it would not weigh in until other appellate courts do so.
Pence's office welcomed the ruling on the disposal of remains of aborted fetuses and said it remained "hopeful that at a later date the Supreme Court will review one of numerous state laws across the US that bar abortion based on sex, race, or disability."
"Countries across the globe prohibit selective abortion -- and the United States should do the same," said the statement from Pence's press secretary Alyssa Farah.
The two Indiana cases were being closely watched as an indicator of how the top court -- which now has a conservative majority -- may eventually decide on the divisive issue, should it choose to accept a case.
The southern state of Alabama passed a bill this month that amounts to a near-total ban on ending a pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest.
Performing an abortion would be a crime that could land doctors in prison for 10 to 99 years. Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has a fatal condition.
- 'Public health crisis' -
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has appointed two conservative justices -- Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh -- and liberal members of the court are now outnumbered five to four.
Conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts is seen as the potential swing vote if the constitutionality of abortion eventually comes before the court.
In Missouri, Planned Parenthood warned Tuesday that the only abortion clinic in the midwestern state risks being shut down on Friday if the state health department does not renew its license.
"This is a real public health crisis," said Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which provides abortions and reproductive health care.
"Missouri would be the first state in the country to go dark -- without a health center that provides safe, legal abortion care," said Wen, who herself is a doctor.
"More than a million women of reproductive age in Missouri will no longer have access to a health center in the state they live in that provides abortion care."
In Louisiana, legislation is moving forward that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which can be as early as six weeks. Several other states have passed similar laws including Georgia.
The state's Democratic governor has indicated that he may sign it if it reaches his desk.
In another development, Netflix said it would reconsider its investment in Georgia should a controversial abortion law in the southern state, known as the Hollywood of the South, go into effect.
"We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement to Variety.
"Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we'll continue to film there -- while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to," Sarandos said.
"Should it ever come into effect, we'd rethink our entire investment in Georgia."
Following adoption of the law in Georgia, where a number of blockbusters, including "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Black Panther," as well as TV series are shot, there have been mounting calls for Hollywood to snub the state.
Such a move would lead to major economic losses for Georgia, which last year reported some 92,000 jobs and an economic impact of more than $9 billion from film and TV production.