Tennessee Republican senators, proponents argue over near-total abortion ban proposal

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, left; Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, center; and Sen. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, right; listen to the testimony of a speaker during a Senate hearing to discuss a fetal heartbeat abortion ban, or possibly something more restrictive, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Senate Republicans and fellow abortion rights opponents divided sharply Monday over a proposed near-total abortion ban that would be one of the nation's strictest, with a National Right to Life legal expert warning both the risky approach and legal strategy on which it relies likely will fail in federal courts.

Before a packed committee room of several hundred, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee members heard testimony, comments and sometimes-heated arguments on the proposal during their first of two days of hearings.

The proposal is a follow-up to Republican Sen. Mark Pody's controversial fetal heartbeat bill last session. It passed the Republican-controlled House but fizzled in the GOP-dominated Senate. No bill will be taken up until January.

While the fetal heartbeat bill sought to ban abortion after it can be detected - usually about six weeks into pregnancy - Pody, a Lebanon lawmaker, wants to use another method to ban it at conception.