The powerful Mississippi Board of Public Health has four vacancies to fill come the end of June. Two current members have been renominated by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant for six-year terms and two new nominees will fill the slots of two departing members.
One of those nominees is Terri Herring, director of the Pro-Life America Network, an organization that has worked to shut down the state's only abortion clinic and get a "personhood" amendment passed by the voters that would declare human life begins when an egg is fertilized and thereby ban all abortion. Fifty-five percent of voters in conservative Mississippi shot down a personhood amendment on the ballot in 2011.
If confirmed, Herring, a college drop-out who has no medical education or training and has been an activist in the anti-abortion movement for 27 years, will replace Ellen Williams, a registered nurse with a doctorate in administration who is dean of the Division of Nursing at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
In a state with a black population of 37 percent, the 11-member health board has one African American member. It would have had two if Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves hadn't kept the nomination of OB/GYN Dr. Carl Reddix from reaching the Senate Health Committee for confirmation last April. Then-Gov. Haley Barbour, also a Republican, had appointed Reddix to fill an unexpected vacancy on the board in the summer of 2011. Reddix served in that post until Reeves's action got him removed 10 months later.
Reddix was ousted because he had agreed over a decade to provide emergency services to the state's only remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization. Reeves's spokewoman said at the time "he felt that [Reddix's] association with the abortion clinic was not appropriate in a role that would shape health policy for the state." Reeves said he wanted a qualified physician instead.
Reddix, born in the Mississippi coastal city of Biloxi 54 years ago, graduated from Tougaloo College, then earned degrees from Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard University. He completed his residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Clearly short in the qualifications department. His role for the clinic was straightforward. He didn't ever provide an abortion, but he was ready to provide emergency help if something went medically wrong. He says he was called upon only a couple of times to do so in all the years he agreed to help if the need arose.
The real problem with Reddix was that he had "admitting privileges" at a local hospital. The legislature last year passed a law that requires abortion clinics to hire only those physicians with hospital admitting privileges, a medically unnecessary practice, as a means by which to close the state's last remaining abortion clinic. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple just signed a similar law designed to close that state's last abortion clinic in Fargo. Read about Reddix's views below the fold.
In an interview with the Jackson Free Press last year after he was kicked off the board, Reddix answered several questions, including this one:
You said you understand the political realities; I wonder if you could flesh that out a little bit. What do you think that political reality looks like?There are definitely some people unqualified to serve in public office in Mississippi. Dr. Carl Reddix isn't one of them.
Well, I think the elected officials have to play to their base, whoever they think that is. And the question is whether our state leaders choose to be servants of the fringe or statesmen for us all. Clearly, we don't have very many statesmen. We've got some politicians, but our statesmen are limited, which has been true throughout governance and democracy. ...
All politicians have to listen to their base and make sure they get re-elected; ultimately, that's their central focus. But when you have major issues, as we do in our state, especially regarding health care and the needs of its citizens, I just believe that it's an easy place for people to hold off their political base and much easier to be statesmen, because you can't profess to be Christian and then not really care about the masses. I think it's a lot easier to hold those type views if you're talking about basic health care services. Unfortunately for me, this whole ruckus was over providing potentially necessary health care services to needy women. ...
We as physicians make recommendations for people to end pregnancies in general because of major anomalies with the developing fetus, especially those anomalies that are incompatible with life. I mean, it doesn't make any sense to me to recommend or to force someone to carry a baby to term when that baby has anomalies and injuries--birth defects--that are incompatible with life.
It's never easy for women to undergo elective terminations; it's not easy when women have miscarriages. Both those things should be looked at from the same perspective, for outsiders, and especially for us men. It's a big deal for women. It's never callous, and it's never without lots of introspection. [...]