Mississippi, religion and abortion…

The state of Mississippi made news recently when its governor, Dewey Phillip Bryant, selected Ms. Terri Herring to fill a vacant slot in its Board of Health. Normally, appointments by governors don’t gain much attention and, on its face, some may think that selecting a woman for a health department position in a state where health concerns loom large due to the alarming rate of obesity and its 6th-place rank in terms of teen pregnancies – but this particular woman has her own agenda.

Terri Herring, anti-abortion activistMs. Herring is the president of Pro-Life Mississippi, an organisation that describes itself on its website as a group “of diverse and caring Christians [who] are drawn together by our commitment to the sanctity of human life from fertilization to natural death.” PLM is Mississippi’s most powerful pro-life group, and they’ve used their power to help limit access to abortions in the state by closing down 5 abortion clinics in a state that had only 14 as of 1981. They’ve also helped to lead to the passage of no fewer than 15 pro-life laws that have severely limited women’s right to choose. Through the efforts of PLM the state has only one remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is barely hanging on after multiple legal and legislative battles.

Last night the governor announced that he is withdrawing Ms. Herring’s nomination. Unfortunately, the nomination wasn’t withdrawn because of Ms. Herring’s stance — which could be considered in direct conflict to the interests of her constituents — but, instead, because of a residency requirement; the governor made his decision only after he was questioned by the Associated Press as to whether or not he was adhering to the requirements of a Mississippi law which specifies that the eleven members of the Board of Health must come from certain parts of the state, including 8 from congressional districts and 3 from state Supreme Court districts.

The governor’s spokesman said that “Although this code section is unclear, Governor Bryant will withdraw this nomination to avoid any legal uncertainty.” He further said that “It is Governor Bryant’s intention to recommend Ms. Herring for a future position on the Board of Health when there is an opening in her district.” That means the door is left wide open. And, let’s face it, if it’s not Ms. Herring then it will be someone with the same goal:  using religious beliefs to ultimately strip the state of any access to abortions, a legal procedure.

Anyone who believes that the war on women is nonexistent needs only to take a look at what has been going on in Mississippi for decades.  the repeated chipping away at the rights of women should not be a surprise given the states propensity towards not acknowledging rights at all. After all, this is the same state that only recently officially abolished slavery, only 148 years late. Mississippi has always had trouble moving into the present.

Backwards…and, as the song says…Mississippi Goddam