BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
When Terri Herring asked me to assist her in dealing with communication issues surrounding her upcoming confirmation hearing as a nominee to the Mississippi Board of Health, I wondered why a person with so much experience in dealing with the public would need my help. Little did I know how low the depths of fierce ideology can go to drive some to full out character assassination.
Terri has been an advocate for women’s health issues at the state capitol, and throughout Mississippi and the nation for decades. As an advocate for health, Terri has also worked to reduce abortions, and that is something that invites a cultish type of blind hatred.
You would think that everyone would believe reducing abortions would be a good thing. I know of no one that will stand up and proudly announce that there aren’t enough abortions taking place. But, it hardly matters to those who translate any health safety regulations of abortion, or any attempts to help impoverished and young mothers with prenatal education as a slight against the litmus test.
Those who dare look past the hype to find the reality of the situation can expect the knives. However, it doesn’t change the reality. The reality is Terri Herring is very qualified to serve in this post.
Those who oppose Terri have brought out every possible insult and slight to keep others from seeing reality. They say “she lacks proper education”, “she is a political appointment”, “she is the governor’s way of implementing Personhood via the Board of Health”, “she will vote to close abortion clinics”, “she doesn’t have a medical background”. None of these snipes rely on fact, nor do they promote a true understanding of the role of the Board of Health.
Is there anyone on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee who will vote on Terri’s confirmation that wants to tell Mississippi mothers who stay home and raise children that they are “too uneducated” to participate in a discussion about health? Too uneducated to be involved? Do so at your own risk. Most have an encyclopedic knowledge of ailments that would rival anyone serving on that committee.
As to the ridiculous Personhood claim, there is absolutely no way it can be implemented via one woman’s vote on the eleven-person Board of Health. The last time I checked the Board of Health didn’t have authority over constitutional amendments or ballot initiatives.
Terri has been nominated to fill one of the non-physician positions on the board, so the reference to a medical background is debunked. Two of former Governor Barbour’s appointments on the board were reappointed in 2011 with no outcry of their lack of medical background; one is a CPA, the other is an executive for an electric power association.
Terri has worked for 27 years as a volunteer advocate for women’s health issues, her work has directly led to the preservation and enrichment of Mississippi lives, both of children and mothers. Her focus on fetal mortality has a direct affect on bringing healthy children into the world, children that may one day do great things that benefit all of us. She has had a positive affect on young women, convincing them of the importance of caring for their bodies and their futures.
Terri gives out $200,000 a year to pregnancy resource centers across Mississippi. She puts her money where her mouth is. She is a passionate advocate who has paid out of pocket for decades to continue doing what she does, and has never been paid a dime to show up day after day, year after year. She cares deeply for the plight of mothers and children everywhere.
The abortion litmus test is a way political opponents can fight AGAINST someone while claiming to fight FOR something. It’s little more than an excuse. Opponents of Terri’s nomination prove by their cherry picking and shell game communication that they care only for a single issue, while Terri’s life has been about promoting and implementing an array of health issues.
There are those that will oppose her because of her work on abortion issues. But, lets be clear. That is the ONLY reason they will be able to give if they oppose her. It is they, not she, who are one-issue advocates. It is they, not she, who must resort to playing politics. Are these opponents now saying that any nominee must be for abortion in order to serve? If so, they slight millions of Mississippians in the process.
Terri Herring is absolutely qualified to serve on the state Board of Health based on the full body of her decades of work on public health issues. In fact, she is more qualified than most who now attempt to pass judgement.
Senate committee members should look beyond the hype before making that call.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett
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