By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday he’s withdrawing his nomination of anti-abortion activist Terri Herring of Ridgeland to the state Board of Health.
Bryant’s decision came after The Associated Press questioned whether Bryant was fulfilling requirements of a state law that specifies the board’s 11 members must come from certain parts of the state.
“Although this code section is unclear, Gov. Bryant will withdraw this nomination to avoid any legal uncertainty,” Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said in a statement Monday night. “It is Gov. Bryant’s intention to recommend Mrs. Herring for a future position on the Board of Health when there is an opening in her district.”
State law says eight Board of Health members must come from congressional districts — two from each of the four districts. Three must come from state Supreme Court districts — one each from northern, central and southern.
There are already enough board members from central Mississippi, where Herring lives. But with her nomination, the board would be one member short from the north.
In a statement Monday night, Herring thanked Bryant for his support. She added, “I appreciate the faith he has shown in me to serve in an expanded role advocating for health issues in Mississippi. I look forward to continuing to promote women’s health, and healthy lifestyles as I have for the past many years.”
The governor, a Republican, had tapped Herring to succeed Ellen Williams from the northern city of Senatobia. Williams lives in the northern Supreme Court district.
Confirmation to the Board of Health requires a majority of Mississippi’s 52 senators. Herring’s nomination had been scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Public Health Committee, before the governor withdrew it.
Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, a member of the committee, said he had planned to vote against Herring’s nomination because he had heard from OB-GYNs who were opposed to her confirmation.
“I hope the governor will consider physicians who deal with women’s health, as well as public health professionals, in his next appointment,” Blount said Monday.
The board 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.”
Bryant nominated Herring for one of the non-physician positions on the board. Williams, who is a registered nurse and has a doctoral degree, has served on the board since 2004.
Herring, 54, 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.
Herring said in a news release last week that she and her husband, Clint Herring, own TrustCare, a Ridgeland clinic that provides walk-in care and occupational therapy. The news release also says the Herrings, since 1984, have run Kerioth Corp., a real estate development firm that has built several upscale commercial sites in the Jackson area, including The Township at Colony Park in Madison County. The Herrings also are partners in The Club fitness centers, which is affiliated with St. Dominic Health Services.
Herring in 2012 lobbied for a law that requires anyone performing abortions at an abortion clinic to be a physician with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been unable to obtain the privileges for its out-of-state physicians. The clinic filed a federal lawsuit last summer to challenge the law, and that suit is awaiting trial.
The clinic is scheduled for an April 18 administrative hearing before the state Board of Health, to appeal the state Health Department’s intent to revoke the clinic’s license because of failure to obtain the admitting privileges. The clinic remains open.
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