Hundreds of activists filled the state legislative building Monday, as lawmakers discussed a bill that would effectively ban all abortions.
The debate around the measure this week highlighted a split within the pro-life movement.
The measure seeks to redefine the concept of viability. Medically, viability is the ability of a fetus to live outside the womb.
But some anti-abortion activists are pushing to change the definition. They want viability to start at conception.
Others disagree. Jim Bopp, the general counsel of anti-abortion group National Right to Life Committee, called the new proposal irrational.
Bopp said that, if challenged, the bill is more than likely to fail in court.
“It’s not a matter of whether these judges are pro-life. It’s the reality that they have an obligation to follow precedent," Bopp told senators during his testimony. "And there’s simply no question that pre-viability prohibitions are unconstitutional. No questions.”
Bopp has successfully defended other cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. His statement is a testament to what abortion opponents, including top Republicans, are struggling with: trying to find a balance between restricting the procedure, without the restriction being deemed unconstitutional.
Sen. Mike Bell, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also seemed hesistant about the new proposal. He was the one who pushed to delay passage of the so-called heartbeat bill, since he was concerned the version that passed in the House could lose in court.
That proposal would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat had been detected, which is believed to happened around the sixth week.
Ashley Coffield, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, said she thinks the Senate will reject the complete ban.
"They don’t want to set up the state taxpayers to have to defend something that the courts are immediately going to strike down," Coffield told reporters Monday.
Lawmakers will continue the discussion Tuesday morning, but they won’t make a decision until next year.