Rogelio V. Solis / AP
Terri Herring, president of the Mississippi Choose Life Advisory Committee, at a hearing of the Mississippi Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Feb. 5, 2013.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has nominated a prominent anti-abortion-rights activist to the state Board of Health, specifically citing her efforts to ban abortion as a public health qualification under state law.
The nomination of Herring, president of the Mississippi Choose Life Advisory Committee and a longtime activist with the Pro Life America Network, must be confirmed by the state Senate before she can join the board, which oversees the state Health Department and appoints its director. The appointment would be for six years.
Mississippi law requires that the Health Board comprise five physicians with at least seven years' experience and six non-physicians "who have a background in public health or an interest in public health."
Bryant, a Republican, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he chose Herring because she had "committed her life to women's health care and the right to life."
The appointment, which was announced Wednesday, was swiftly met with strong reaction in Mississippi. Within just a few hours, pro-abortion-rights activists launched an online petition urging Bryant to withdraw Herring's nomination.
State Sen. Debbie Dawkins, a Democrat representing Pass Christian, told the Clarion Ledger of Jackson: "I'm not sure if she knows what happens when a sperm and egg unite. I'm not unbiased. When I worked in the ER — I was a surgical technician — back before Roe vs. Wade, we would see people come in with coat hanger situations or worse."
But state Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican representing Sumrall, called Herring's nomination a "good appointment," according to the Livingston County Daily Press.
"I've known Terri for 14 years and have worked with her on a number of pro-life issues," Fillingane said. "I've always found her to be very fair but very passionate about the causes she believes in."
In a 2005 interview with PBS, Herring said she believed that abortion "hurts women" and that "women regret their abortions."
In a statement Thursday, Herring said she has "assisted young pregnant women across Mississippi through pregnancy resource centers to receive prenatal education, medical care, and financial assistance."
"She distributes $200,000 annually to resource centers across the state as founder and President of the Choose Life Advisory Committee," the statement said.