Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said Sunday on CNN that all Democrats have to back the Roe v. Wade abortion decision as a matter of policy in order to be part of their party, regardless of their personal beliefs.
The Democratic Party's strict stance on abortion came into the limelight this week in the form of Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, who came under fire from pro-choice wings of the party over his mixed record on the issue.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and the Democratic National Committee endorsed Mello and infuriated the abortion rights group NARAL and left-wing website Daily Kos with the move; they say he has backed "anti-choice" bills in the Nebraska state senate and pulled their own endorsements of him. Mello told the Huffington Post he would not do anything in office to "restrict access to reproductive health care."
"State of the Union" host Dana Bash asked Durbin which side of the tumult he came down on. Some more moderate Democrats advocate softening their social issue stances to win in red states like Nebraska, while the more liberal wing wants ideological purity on those issues.
"Are you with NARAL or Senator Sanders?" Bash asked.
"I am committed to women's rights under the law, reproductive rights certainly, and our party is," Durbin said. "We've made that part of our platform and position for a long, long time. I know within the ranks of the Democratic Party there are those who see that differently on a personal basis, but when it comes to the policy position, I think we need to be clear and unequivocal.
"We need to be understanding of those who take a different position, because of personal conscience, but as long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe v. Wade, prepared to back women's rights as we've defined them under the law, then I think they can be part of the party."