March 28, 2013 10:21:28 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has nominated anti-abortion activist Terri Herring for a six-year term on the state Board of Health, a position that could give Herring influence over Health Department policies that affect the state's only abortion clinic.
Hers is one of several nominations awaiting consideration in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee in the next 10 days. If confirmed by a majority of the Senate, Herring would serve July 1 to June 30, 2019.
Republican Bryant nominated Herring, of Ridgeland, to succeed Ellen Williams, of Senatobia, who is a registered nurse and has a doctorate degree. Williams has served on the board since 2004.
"Gov. Bryant believes Terri has been dedicated to women's health care for more than 20 years and will bring a balance to the Board of Health," Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said Wednesday in response to questions about Herring's qualifications. "This appointment will fill one of the six non-physician spots on the board."
Herring's voice mail was full Wednesday and she did not immediately respond to an emailed request for an interview. Bullock did not respond to The Associated Press' request for a copy of Herring's resume or biography.
The 11-member Board of Health oversees the state Department of Health, including appointing its director. It also approves the state health plan and sets rules and regulations for the department.
State law says the board must be made up of five currently licensed physicians with at least seven years' experience in practicing medicine. The other six members must be people "who have a background in public health or an interest in public health who are not currently or formerly licensed physicians."
Herring has lobbied since the mid-1980s to tighten abortion laws in Mississippi. As head of Pro Life America Network, she is pushing this year for a bill that would put new restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs.
Sen. Deborah Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, who supports abortion rights, said she wants to know whether Herring is qualified to serve on the Board of Health.
"I really don't know anything about her except, you know, she's an agitator for her cause," Dawkins said. "I'll be glad to look at her credentials, but if she doesn't meet the qualifications, I'll also be glad to oppose her on the floor. And they ought to know by now that I will."