Commentary

Holcomb doesn’t seem to care about enormous policy debate on abortion

August 5, 2022 7:00 am

Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks at the Indiana State Fair on July 29. (Photo from governor’s flickr)

Indiana is in the throes of one of the most important policy debates the state has ever seen —do women control their bodies or do lawmakers? And depending on the answer, where is the line drawn?

Republican legislators are fractured – a more moderate group clashing with ultra-conservatives who want nothing but a full ban with no compromise.

Meanwhile the leader of the Indiana Republican Party is nowhere to be found.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is sitting in the dugout eating sunflower seeds while others are on the field.

The irony is he called this special session – to deliver a $225 tax rebate. But that has gotten pushed to the side as the abortion debate rages.

Holcomb has refused to say where he stands on any details of an abortion bill. Does he support a rape and incest exception? Does he think doctors should be jailed? Does he think the state Attorney General should prosecute doctors? Does he believe conception is the appropriate point for an abortion ban?

Crickets.

Reporters tried to pin him down early on. At first, he said he had no “red lines” – i.e. things he wouldn’t sign into law. Then he tried to backtrack on that by saying “What I meant was, I have not laid out any ultimatums to say this is what should be in, or shouldn’t be in, or can be in or couldn’t be,” he said.

Since then, he has been busy but not on abortion.

He hosted the Indiana chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America.

He visited the Indiana State Fair and touted the state’s automotive heritage.

He thanked the Governor’s Public Service Summer Interns.

He welcomed the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ annual conference to Indiana.

And it might be too late for him to be part of the conversation. After a resounding – and surprising – vote in Kansas in which citizens rejected a statewide attempt to allow lawmakers to restrict abortion, Holcomb should step in and lay down some guardrails that he wants to see in a bill.

It’s clear from this result in a red state that citizens want reproductive choice. Every poll in Indiana says the same thing – even the secret poll the House and Senate Republican caucuses conducted. While they are guarding the specific data like it’s Fort Knox, legislators briefed on it have said repeatedly that Hoosiers like the state’s abortion law as is and support flexibility in the first trimester.

Holcomb says he is pro-life and has signed multiple abortion restrictions. But he generally focuses less on social issues and more on economic ones.

Would he have the guts to veto an abortion ban in a red state when he likely has future political ambitions? Hard to tell. But he surprised everyone when he vetoed a transgender sports ban earlier this year.

He was quickly overridden because Indiana’s gubernatorial veto is weak – requiring only a simple majority to go over his head.

One would hope that Holcomb would be trying to pull his fractured party together to find a solution that would still have compassion and allow a woman to control her own life.

Alas, he’s too busy to get in the game.

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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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