By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is blocking a state Board of Health nomination because the nominee has ties to the state’s only abortion clinic, The Associated Press confirmed Tuesday.
Dr. Carl Reddix, a Jackson OB-GYN, has served on the Board of Health since last summer, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Haley Barbour.
Barbour, a Republican, submitted Reddix to the Senate for confirmation in January, a week before ending his second term as governor.
The Republican lieutenant governor blocked the nomination Tuesday. After AP asked Reeves about the Reddix nomination, it disappeared from the legislative website’s list of more than 80 nominations awaiting Senate confirmation.
“Lt. Gov. Reeves had concerns about the appointment because of (Reddix’s) affiliation with the abortion clinic and wanted Gov. Bryant to refer a qualified doctor to guide state health policy,” Reeves spokeswoman Laura Hipp said in a statement to AP.
Reddix, 53, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he has had a “very loose affiliation” with Jackson Women’s Health Organization for years, and he is not paid for it. He said doesn’t do abortions at the clinic but has admitting privileges in case any patient from the clinic needs to be hospitalized.
“I just take care of their complications if they have any. And they have had very, very few,” Reddix told AP.
Reddix, who grew up in Biloxi, earned his medical degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree in health policy from Harvard. He did his OB-GYN residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital before returning to Mississippi to practice medicine.
“My academic pedigree is beyond reproach and second to none,” Reddix said.
It’s not unusual for board members to serve several months until they receive Senate confirmation. Without confirmation, though, Reddix will lose his seat on the 11-member board that sets public health policy. Reddix said he has sought to bring attention to infant mortality and chronic health conditions that disproportionately affect Mississippi’s poor and African-American residents.
“Politics is a dirty game,” Reddix said. “But I would think that the most important thing that any politician can do is look out for the least of its citizens with every resource available. Unless they can find a candidate at least as qualified as this one, they have done the citizens of Mississippi a disservice.”
Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said he has been friends with Reddix for 20 years, and Reddix delivered the lawmaker’s three children. Johnson said he believes Reddix should be confirmed.
“He treats the people who need treatment the most. That’s what he’s been committed to,” Johnson said. “It would be hard to find someone better qualified.”
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who was sworn in Jan. 10 to succeed Barbour, plans to find a different nominee for the Board of Health, said his spokesman Mick Bullock.
“We’re fully prepared to make another nomination,” Bullock said.
Senators typically handle nominations at the end of each legislative session. The current session is scheduled to end in early May, and it’s not clear whether a new nominee by Bryant will have time to undergo a background check in the next week and a half.
Reeves’ blocking of the Reddix nomination comes days after Bryant signed a new law that both Bryant and Reeves say is aimed at closing down the abortion clinic in Jackson. Starting July 1, anyone doing abortions at the clinic must be an OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital.
The clinic’s director, Diane Derzis, has said that those doing abortions at the facility already are OB-GYNs, but it has been difficult for out-of-state doctors to obtain admitting privileges at Jackson-area hospitals. She has said one physician affiliated with the clinic has admitting privileges.
Johnson said of Reddix’s affiliation with Jackson Women’s Health Organization: “It has nothing to do with supporting abortion. It has more to do with supporting the health of women. If there are complications, somebody needs to be there to say, ‘I can take care of it.’”