Amid the backlash against the Democratic National Committee’s embrace of anti-choice Democratic mayoral candidate Heath Mello in Omaha, Nebraska, some have suggested his record should be viewed in light of a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood Nebraska.
Paige Hutchinson, Mello’s campaign manager, told the Huffington Post on Friday that in his “most recent term in the legislature, Heath Mello voted 100% with Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska.”
And when Daily Kos revoked its endorsement of Mello, the publication said it was “particularly surprised to learn [of Mello’s anti-choice record] because Mello had earned a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska in 2015.”
References to a 100-percent rating from Planned Parenthood don’t tell the whole story, according to the organization.
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Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska said in a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday that it had never endorsed Mello, and though some media outlets have claimed the candidate has a 100 percent rating from the group, that scorecard only refers to two votes from one year in the state legislature. (The Mello campaign did note that the perfect rating comes from a single year in the legislature.) As Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska wrote:
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 three 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.
The confusion seems to have arisen in part from a misinterpretation of information concerning Mello’s record on the website Vote Smart.
When asked to respond to Planned Parenthood Votes of Nebraska’s correction, a spokesperson for the Mello campaign forwarded Rewire an already-released quote from the candidate claiming that if elected, he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.” The spokesperson also forwarded Hutchinson’s aforementioned quote.
But Mello has repeatedly acted on anti-choice views in ways that have restricted access to reproductive health care for Nebraska residents, as Rewire reported:
Mello is a sponsor of the final version of a 20-week abortion ban approved by the governor in 2010, and cast anti-choice votes in favor of requiring physicians to be physically present for an abortion in order to impede access to telemedicine abortion care, and a law banning insurance plans in the state from covering abortions. He has previously been endorsed by anti-choice group Nebraska Right to Life.
While many of these restrictions remain in place, Mello has not expressed regret for his actions nor indicated his understanding of how they affect access to care.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify Nebraska Right to Life’s endorsement.