JACKSON, Miss. (WTOK) - Mississippi lawmakers are taking steps toward approving a more restrictive abortion ban. A 15-week ban was signed into law last year but was immediately challenged.
This year, the proposal is to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Derenda Hancock leads a group of volunteers known as the 'Pink House Defenders', a reference to the state's only abortion clinic, in Jackson.
"I believe abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her doctor. I've had two abortions, many years ago," said Hancock. "And that was my right. That was my right to choose. I do not want to see young women forced into motherhood."
The group says the proposed 'heartbeat bills' are the legislature's attempt to make the South an abortion desert.
"Forget the constitution. They are legislating from a religious standpoint," Hancock said.
Most days there are more than just the clinic escorts outside the fence. People in pink shirts call themselves sidewalk counselors. Their shirts read 'Trained Women's Advocate'. They are pro-life.
"The women are in a crisis pregnancy," said Laura Uecker, a Sidewalk Advocate for Life. All they can see is the crisis and they want to end it right then. They can't see outside of their crisis that it is a child, that they're going to have regret and that they need help. Many of these women need financial help. They need assistance. And we're here to offer that for them."
The Pink House Defenders say they worry that further restrictions on abortion will come at high price, not just for the court battles.
"There will be abortion whether it's legal or not," said Hancock. "You're telling them by legislation that you don't value your decision, your rights, your choices. That's one of the main problems is that it will go underground and more women will die."
The House and Senate have passed versions of the heartbeat bill. Gov. Phil Bryant has said he would sign a version into law but there will be more debates before that can happen.