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Bernie Sanders Defends Campaigning With Nebraska Anti-Abortion Rights Democrat Heath Mello : NPR

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during an event at the the James L. Knight Center on Thursday in Miami as part of a Democratic unity tour. Sanders is getting heat for campaigning with Omaha, Neb., mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who has supported abortion restrictions.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during an event at the the James L. Knight Center on Thursday in Miami as part of a Democratic unity tour. Sanders is getting heat for campaigning with Omaha, Neb., mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who has supported abortion restrictions.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders is campaigning for Omaha, Neb., mayoral candidate Heath Mello Thursday night, and he’s not apologizing for it.

“Absolutely, and I want him to win,” Sanders, I-Vt., told NPR Thursday, after a rally in Grand Prairie, Texas.

The Thursday event with Mello, a Nebraska state senator who’s running as a Democrat in the mayoral race, is one of several rallies Sanders is holding across the country this week. It’s part of a Democratic National Committee-organized unity tour with DNC Chair Tom Perez.

The Omaha event wasn’t that notable – just one of several red state visits on the DNC itinerary — until Thursday morning. That’s when Ilyse Hogue, the president of abortion rights advocate NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement blasting Sanders and Perez for spending time and resources campaigning alongside a Democrat who opposes abortion rights.

“The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women – one of the most critical constituencies for the party – of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid,” Hogue said. “Today’s action makes this so-called ‘fight back tour’ look more like a throw-back tour for women and our rights.”

Mello has co-sponsored several bills in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature that would restrict abortion rights, including a 2009 measure requiring doctors to inform women seeking abortions about the availability of an ultrasound.

Sanders pushed back against the criticism. “The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about,” Sanders told NPR.

“If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state…

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