Here’s the catch: Heath Mello is a longtime opponent of abortion access who sponsored a 20-week abortion ban in 2010. It contained no exceptions for rape or incest. Mello has also co-sponsored legislation requiring doctors to perform medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, and he voted for a bill to ban insurance plans in the state from covering abortion, which would dramatically restrict access for low-income women. That’s not just “personal opposition”; it’s a clear, concerted campaign to restrict access to abortion.
Under heavy criticism, Sanders doubled down on his support of Mello, telling NPR that Democrats “can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”
But of course, Sanders is willing to deny his support to candidates who don’t support his economic justice agenda. Just this week, he bluntly panned Jon Ossoff, a pro-choice Democrat in a tight race to flip Tom Price’s Georgia House seat, as “not a progressive.”
In his fight to define what it means to be progressive and to “radically transform the Democratic Party,” Sanders has drawn an unspoken but clear distinction between the economic issues that animate him (on which he says we must not compromise) and reproductive freedom (on which, he says, we should). It’s a vision in which single-payer and free college are essential parts of the progressive, economic justice agenda, while a woman’s right to choose is not.