Heath Mello, for those of you not familiar with him (I wasn’t!) is a Democrat running for mayor in Omaha Nebraska.
Bernie Sanders will be going out to Nebraska to help campaign for Mello next month. A number of people in that diary are upset by this because of the views Mello holds on abortion.
I suggested they should write a diary expressing their concerns, rather than using their concerns on a serious subject simply as a way to attack Sanders. They found that offensive on my part. So I’m writing the diary they should have. This is that diary.
If forced ultrasounds is a serious concern to you — if Democrats supporting forced ultrasound and other restrictive laws on abortion is a serious concern to you — if Democrats endorsing and actively supporting candidates who do that is a serious concern to you — then I urge you to take the time to read this diary.
Here are a few of the comments about this from the diary in which this subject arose. (And yes, there is a reason why I’m devoting a fair amount of space to posting these comments rather than getting right to Heath Mello and Bernie Sanders.)
Bernie Sanders is supporting a guy who is for forced ultrasounds. Is that progressive?
My reply to beaky was that this should be the subject of the diary rather than simply using it as a way to take a potshot at Sanders. For that, several people (notably high uintas) took offense:
That was an incredibly dismissive thing to say about a massive subject.
You tell someone to “write a diary” after a five paragraph comment of defensiveness?
Does the subject (forced ultrasounds) concern you at all?
Forced ultrasound is a serious issue. It’s a major invasion on women’s rights, and something we need to unite in opposing. Bringing it up this way (as a method of attacking Bernie Sanders rather than a way of addressing the problem) communicates to me that the person writing that comment is more interested in attacking Sanders than in the actual issue. That may not be what beaky meant to communicate with that comment, but that’s what the comment communicated to me.
If that isn’t what beaky’s intent was, a good way to correct the miscommunication is to write a diary rather than a glib comment. Identify the candidate who supports forced ultrasound, identify the people who have actively endorsed this candidate (and provide some of their statements of support), and invite a serious discussion of what we should be doing both in relation to this candidate and to the party leaders who are providing support to this candidate.
It’s a serious issue and one which should not be used simplistically, as beaky does, as a way to attack someone beaky happens to dislike. That’s not helpful either in dealing with the question of how Sanders supports Democrats or in dealing with the question of how we fight things such as forced ultrasounds.
And when high uintas considered that insufficient and again pressed as to what I thought about Sanders supporting a candidate who believes in forced ultrasound, I replied:
I’m perfectly willing to engage in a serious discussion of that question when you or beaky present it in a serious fashion. Identify the candidate who is for forced ultrasounds, quote some of their statements on the issue, identify the people who are actively supporting this candidate and quote some of their statements of support. Then we can have a serious discussion about what we should do regarding this candidate and how we feel about the actions people have taken in supporting or opposing this candidate.
By that time other people had come into comments to snipe at Sanders over this matter as well. One of them even identified the Democratic candidate beaky referred to but failed to identify:
I just read that Sanders is going to Kansas this week to campaign for Heath Mello, a dude who co-sponsered legislation that requires a woman to look at an ultrasound of the fetus before an abortion.
Or Heath Mello, who thinks women should have to look at ultrasounds before having an abortion.
Sanders is campaigning for him tomorrow in OK.
And others chimed in to echo these sentiments, such as Wednesday Bizzare:
Bernie feels that being pro or anti choice is a distraction. Forced ultrasounds are kool as fuk.
Answer the question. Are forced ultrasounds progressive or not?
There are hundreds of comments in response to that diary now, so finding just the ones which address this particular subject may be difficult, but I encourage those of you who have time to do so. Because there is one thing which stands out to me about them and is particularly disturbing: no one seemed willing to take the time to look up the details of this, find out the facts, and lay them out clearly. People kept echoing what other posters had said about how Sanders was supporting a person who had co-sponsored forced ultrasound legislation, but no one wanted to write a diary so that we could have an informed discussion about questions larger than simply whether Sanders is a hypocrite.
So I’m writing a quick diary about it. I had never heard of Heath Mello before, but it wasn’t hard to find some information through a quick Google. My browser is refusing to open his campaign website page, but it is letting me see his Facebook page.
And here’s a link to the (rather uninformative) Wikipedia page on him. That gives some dry basics such as that’s he’s running in Nebraska (not Kansas or Oklahoma, as some of the telephone tag comments in the other diary indicated).
Here is what I know so far.
First, from VoteSmart, here is their political summary of Mello regarding abortion. I don’t know how to take a screenshot on the computer I’m using (and the app I downloaded to take screenshots doesn’t seem to work) so you’ll have to click the link to read the page for yourself. But the top line says that he was rated 100% by Planned Parenthood voters of Nebraska and the following 5 lines are records of 5 votes he cast on laws related to abortion.
In 2011 he voted to require a physician to be present during an abortion [which is designed to make medical abortions via RU-486 more complicated] and against insurance coverage of abortion; in 2010 he voted to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks and he voted for screening requirements to make sure a woman getting an abortion had provided fully informed consent; and in 2009 he voted in yes on the ultrasound law referred to in the diary. Why those voted earned him a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska, I don’t know. It’s something worth looking at more.
Second, from a February 2009 AP news story about ultrasound laws which appeared in the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star:
States May Require Ultrasound Before Abortion
LINCOLN, Neb. — Abortion foes have a new tactic: The hope that women can’t look away.
Lawmakers in 11 states are considering bills that would offer or require ultrasounds before a woman gets an abortion. The most stringent are proposed laws in Nebraska, Indiana and Texas, which would require a doctor show the ultrasound image of the fetus to the woman, despite legal challenges to a similar measure in Oklahoma…
Okay, you don’t need the entire newspaper article (nor does fair use permit me to reprint it) so let’s cut to the chase:
Fulton, who said he opposes abortion, also introduced a less restrictive bill (LB676) in Nebraska. It requires the physician performing the abortion to tell a woman an ultrasound is available, but it doesn’t require the ultrasound to be performed.
Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat who said he opposes abortion, signed on as a co-sponsor, calling the measure a “positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska.”
“It seemed like a good compromise, without bringing in the constitutional issues seen in other states,” he said.
That seems like rather pertinent information to consider when discussing Heath Mello and when discussing whether Heath Mello deserves Democratic Party support in his campaign for mayor. It certainly gives me a very different (and more favorable) impression of a Democratic candidate than the comments I saw in the other diary.
I would like to learn more about Heath Mello and the Omaha mayoral race. I have already spent much more time tonight, both on my quick search for information about Mello and on typing this diary up, than I could afford, so I will have to leave further research to others for the moment. But if there are people who know more about Mello and can share that information, I would very much appreciate seeing it.
If this is to be a reality-based community, we need to check things out before making and echoing claims — especially when those claims are attacks on others in our community. I realize there are many people here who are having trouble letting go of their dislike of Bernie Sanders, but at some point people need to decide which is more important: attacking Bernie Sanders or working to elect more Democrats, take back control of the House, Senate, and White House, and getting progressive legislation enacted to make lives better and the world a better place.
In the diary, I wrote that according to VoteSmart Mello had received a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska (which seemed puzzling, given his votes).
David Nir received a communication from PPVoN (and posted it in the diary on Mello which he published this morning) which clears up a number of questions. I think this is important information for people interested in this discussion about Mello, so I am reprinting it here as well.
Statement from Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska regarding Heath Mello
Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska has never endorsed Heath Mello for public office nor has Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska given Heath Mello a 100% rating, as some media outlets have erroneously reported. That's an inaccurate representation of Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska's scorecard.
Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska only scores votes on passed legislation.
In 2011, PPVN's scorecard shows Heath Mello voting against Planned Parenthood's position on 3 votes – all abortion related.
In 2015, PPVN scored two votes in the Nebraska legislature, which were Medicaid and family planning related. PPVN's scorecard shows Heath Mello voting in favor of the Planned Parenthood position. To be clear, that does not translate into a 100% rating or an endorsement.
Heath Mello has introduced and supported anti-choice legislation during his time at the Nebraska Unicameral, and Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska strongly opposed him when he took such actions.
Over the course of Heath Mello's campaign for Omaha Mayor he has said loud and clear he supports Planned Parenthood and wants to protect the work we do. Although he has not started that conversation with us, our door is always open and we welcome the opportunity to start a productive dialogue on how Heath Mello can help us promote and protect access to women's health care in Nebraska.
Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska is a nonpartisan organization. We will hold any political party, any candidate for public office, and any elected official accountable for not standing up for reproductive rights that are fundamental to women's health care, economic security, and well being. Politicians cannot say they are supporting women's health and rights unless that includes the ability for women to make decisions about their own body, and what's best for their families.