NPR Slants Towards Advocates of Federal Funding of Birth Control

NPR's Julie Rovner lined up proponents of the federal Title X program on Friday's Morning Edition, devoting most of her four-minute report to three employees at a Washington, DC health care clinic who all pushed for continuing the funding of the subsidy for contraceptives. Rovner left only 30 seconds for a conservative advocate of defunding the program.

During the bulk of her report, the correspondent featured Unity Health Care's Upper Cardozo Clinic in Washington, DC. She stated that it is locate in a "heavily Hispanic neighborhood" and accented this by playing a clip of one of the clinic's doctors, Andrea Anderson, speaking in Spanish with a patient. Dr. Anderson's female patient had a "sinus problem," according to Rovner, but continued by noting that the "family physician" also asked the patient "if she's happy with the birth control method she's using. Thanks to the Title X program, Unity has available a wide array of contraceptive options....Anderson says one of her favorite things about the family planning program is the way it lets her integrate contraceptive choices into her everyday practice."

After playing a clip from Dr. Anderson, who described her routine of promoting contraceptives, the NPR reporter gave a brief history of the Title X program, emphasizing its connection to two past Republican presidents:

ROVNER: The Title X family planning program was created in 1970, signed by President Richard Nixon and championed by then Congressman George H.W. Bush. Its goal was to provide low-cost family planning services. Abortion has been banned as an allowed service since the program began. But even so, Title X has long been entangled in abortion politics. Among the many reasons for that is that Planned Parenthood affiliates get about a quarter of all Title X dollars. Planned Parenthood clinics are also the nation's largest abortion providers, although they use don't use federal funding for that.

Actually, while this Title X money can't be used to directly pay for abortions, it should be pointed out that the millions of tax dollars that Planned Parenthood receives every year helps the organization use the rest of their yearly budget for services like abortion.

Rovner then turned to two more employees of Unity Health Care, who both lobbied for Title X:

ROVNER: The controversy surrounding the program is a shame, says Doctor Mark Hathaway, Unity's Title X Medical Director. That's because of the roughly six million pregnancies in the U.S. every year, half are unintended.

DOCTOR MARK HATHAWAY: And of that half, half of those end up as abortions, and that's a ridiculously, ridiculously high level of abortions in a country like ours, where we have, supposedly, the best technologies and the best available methods to help women avoid pregnancy when they don't want to be pregnant.

ROVNER: And if reducing abortion is a goal, then getting rid of the Title X program is not the way to accomplish it, says Unity nurse midwife, Karen Klauss.

KAREN KLAUSS, NURSE MIDWIFE: If the Title X program goes away, there's no question that the unintended pregnancies would go up and, as a consequence of that, abortions across the country would go up.

The correspondent finally turned to the conservative opponents of Title X near the end of her report, but then countered with another liberal-leaning argument to keep it:

ROVNER: Some religious conservatives oppose the entire idea of the government handing out contraceptives, particularly to people who aren't married. But others oppose the program for other reasons. Chuck Donovan is a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

CHUCK DONOVAN, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: At the end of the day, there's just a question of how many things can you afford and is this one a national priority.

ROVNER: Donovan says Heritage isn't against contraception. He just thinks the program should be funded through people's individual insurance.

DONOVAN: And then it would be a matter of individuals deciding what their needs are and using their insurance dollars to purchase those services, rather than all of the cost and bureaucracy of a federal program.

ROVNER: In the meantime, however, as more and more people are losing their health insurance, the demand for services under the Title X program has been rising. In 2009, the program served just over five million patients. If it actually is cancelled, how those patients will get care remains a question yet to be addressed.

This is the second time in two weeks that NPR has vouched for Title X. On March 21, Liza Halloran's article on NPR.org quoted exclusively from liberal supporters of the program or from conservatives who had second thoughts about targeting the program. The accompanying article which Rovner wrote for her network's website featured a sidebar explanation of the federal subsidy of contraceptives taken from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center