The Democratic Party is in disarray over the issue of abortion. In recent days, top party officials have made contradictory claims on whether they accept Americans into their ranks who are pro-life.
The split among Democrats came after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, endorsed Heath Mello, the pro-life Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.
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Pro-choice groups denounced Mello because eight years ago he voted for legislation requiring doctors to inform their patients they had the right to a fetal ultrasound before an abortion. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League released a statement calling Sanders' endorsement of Mello a "betrayal of women," and the liberal site Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello.
The controversy has sparked a debate amongst Democrats on whether a person can be pro-life and also part of the Democratic Party.
DNC chair Tom Perez released a statement last week asserting that being pro-choice is "not negotiable" for Democrats.
"Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health," Perez said in a statement. "That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) rebuked Perez's statement. She told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet The Press" that there is room for pro-life Democrats within the party.
But Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) appears to agree with Perez. Durbin said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that Democrats can personally be pro-life, but when it comes to legislation they have to be pro-choice.
"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," Durbin said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) tried to unite the two sides on Monday, saying the Democratic Party is a "big tent party"–but also a "strongly pro-choice party."
"Look, we're a big tent party as Nancy Pelosi said, but we are, let's make no mistake about it, we are a pro-choice party. We're a strongly pro-choice party," Schumer said. "We think that's where the American people are, and in fact, if anything, are moving even more in that direction."