Holcomb calls abstention a political compromise

State Rep. Mike Holcomb (D-Pine Bluff) said Thursday that his decision not to vote on a controversial abortion bill was a compromise between his support for the bill and his appreciation for Gov. Mike Beebe.

Holcomb did not participate in Wednesday’s vote to override Beebe’s veto of House Bill 1037. The bill, vetoed by Beebe on Tuesday, would outlaw most abortions performed on women at least 20 weeks pregnant.

“The people knew where I stood on the issue of abortion when they voted for me,” Holcomb said. “I voted for the bill and was a co-sponsor of the bill. I still plan to support this bill. I’m disappointed that the governor vetoed it. At the same time as far as the override vote is concerned I didn’t want to do anything to add tension to my relationship with the governor. He has done a really great job for the state of Arkansas. Every time we needed money in our part of the state — whether it was for an emergency, for a fire department or for school programs — he’s always been there for us.”

Holcomb said he knew before the House vote Wednesday that the votes were in place to override the governor’s veto without him.

“Why cause friction when we already had the votes?” Holcomb said. “I didn’t want to vote to override the governor’s veto when I didn’t have to. I support the bill but I also have to look out for the interests of the people of Southeast Arkansas. I believe that I have shown that I am a conservative Democrat who fights for my constituents.”

Holcomb said that he believed a press release issued by the Republican Party of Arkansas before Wednesday’s vote warning him to continue his support of the bill or risk being voted out of office was a sign that his reputation as a conservative Democrat is recognized.

“I’m flattered that the GOP decided to choose me to put in the press release,” Holcomb said. “They know that I am a conservative. I still continue to support the bill and the GOP knows that. They know that I’m a swing vote. I assume that’s why they singled me out for that press release.”

HB 1037

With the successful override of Beebe’s veto by the state Senate on Thursday, the legislation became law immediately because of an emergency clause paired with the bill .

The Thursday Senate vote was 19-14 in favor of the override and the Wednesday House vote was 53-28.

Overriding a gubernatorial veto requires a simple majority of both chambers in the Arkansas legislature; 51 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate.

Known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, House Bill 1037 was sponsored by Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) and introduced Jan. 17.

The new law prohibits the abortion of a fetus determined by a physician to be 20 or more weeks past fertilization, except in the case of incest, rape or the presence of a condition in the mother that will lead to her death or to a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.