Holcomb and the art of the unexceptional

Gov’s alarmingly pedestrian approach to infant mortality underscores lack of vision

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s tragic infant mortality rate often find its way into first-term Governor Eric Holcomb’s talking points. Yesterday, like in 2018, he signed a bill to address it and has committed to achieving the lowest rate in the Midwest by 2024 (Indiana currently possesses the Midwest’s highest). Great talking points, but for a governor who places high value on the ‘sanctity of life’ and who enjoys commanding legislative majorities, it’s not an approach that screams urgency. It’s a pattern for Holcomb, who refuses to burn capital or take a stand on just about anything.

It’s not as if big, bold action on infant mortality isn’t possible. Georgia dropped its rate of infant mortality per 1,000 births from 7.7 to 6.6 between 2011 and 2013 with an at-any-cost approach. And the cost of dragging feet is high. In 2017, the Midwest’s lowest infant mortality rate belonged to Minnesota at 4.8/1,000 births compared to Indiana’s rate of 7.3. Apply Minnesota’s rate to Indiana’s 82,251 births in 2017 and 200 fewer children die before celebrating their first birthday. Extend that projection to 2024, and more than 1,400 children would be saved. Don’t forget, Indiana Republicans also cut a modest funding request for doulas – a tool in the fight against infant mortality – in the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session.

What’s behind Holcomb’s timid tactics? Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody believed Holcomb is allergic to bold action.  

“Three years on, and it’s pretty clear Governor Holcomb lacks the bold vision and political courage to take a stand on just about anything,” said Zody. “Holcomb’s decision to play it safe on infant mortality means as many as 200 more children won’t celebrate their first birthdays. We should expect more from Holcomb with so much at stake.”

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