CBS Spins New ObamaCare Birth Control Mandate as 'Good News'

On Monday's Early Show, CBS slanted towards supporters of a new Obama administration mandate which requires private insurance companies to cover contraception as part of women's "preventative services." Anchor Chris Wragge labeled the development "good news," while correspondent Michelle Miller failed to include sound bites from opponents during her report on the new regulation.

After using his "good news" phrase, Wragge trumpeted the "historic new women's health guidelines" during his introduction for Miller's report, which aired at the bottom of the 7 am Eastern hour. The correspondent herself picked up where the anchor left off when she stated that new mandate was "welcome news to the women we spoke to." She then played two sound bites from women on the street who gave supposed horror stories about the cost of birth control.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Sometimes, $20 a month can definitely be hard to scrape together.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: It is very, very expensive, and I think that that's one of the problems, especially for younger women, who really can't afford it.

Miller did later acknowledge that "birth control has been controversial in the United States from the moment Margaret Sanger opened up the country's first family planning clinic in 1916, and was promptly sent to prison for it." She also read a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which criticized the new regulation. But instead of playing a clip from an opponent, she turned to another supporter of contraception.

MILLER: But women's rights advocates say free access to birth control can significantly reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

ELLEN CHESLER, SR. FELLOW, THE ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: The number of children we have determines how many we need to educate, how many we can employ. The social and economic outcomes of contraception are critical.

Once the CBS correspondent's report concluded, Wragge gave a softball interview of White House deputy senior advisor Stephanie Cutter, who defended the new policy. At one point, he anchor did mention in passing how "there are groups that don't agree with contraception being advocated by the government," but then asked, "What do you say to those who believe that abstinence is still the best preventative measure?"

Less than a week earlier, on the July 26 edition of The Early Show, Miller leaned towards proponents of taxing junk food by playing three sound bites from them and none from opponents.

The full transcript of Michelle Miller's report and Chris Wragge's interview of Stephanie Cutter on Monday's Early Show:

CHRIS WRAGGE: First, some good news here: the government announces historic new women's health guidelines today. The Department of Health and Human Services is requiring insurance companies to cover women's preventative services, including birth control, for the first time ever.

Here's CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

MICHELLE MILLER (voice-over): For the tens of millions of American women who use contraception, birth control will now essentially be free, because of new government guidelines requiring insurance companies to not only cover the cost, but to eliminate co-pays and deductibles. That was welcome news to the women we spoke to.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Sometimes, $20 a month can definitely be hard to scrape together.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: It is very, very expensive, and I think that that's one of the problems, especially for younger women, who really can't afford it.

MILLER: Birth control has been controversial in the United States from the moment Margaret Sanger opened up the country's first family planning clinic in 1916, and was promptly sent to prison for it. While many have hailed contraception as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy, others argue that abstinence education is the way to go. In a statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops oppose the new guidelines, saying, 'Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.'

But women's rights advocates say free access to birth control can significantly reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

ELLEN CHESLER, SR. FELLOW, THE ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: The number of children we have determines how many we need to educate, how many we can employ. The social and economic outcomes of contraception are critical.

MILLER: The new rules would affect insurance plans beginning August 2012. Michelle Miller, CBS News, New York.

Chris Wragge, CBS News Anchor; & Stephanie Cutter, Deputy White House Senior Advisor | NewsBusters.orgWRAGGE (on-camera): And joining us now from the White House is Stephanie Cutter, a deputy senior advisor to President Obama. Ms. Cutter, good morning.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY SENIOR ADVISOR: Good morning.

WRAGGE: It's a major announcement. What are the preventative services that are included on this list?

CUTTER: Well, today is an important step forward for women's health. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the new health reform law, insurance companies have to provide preventative care with no out-of-pocket costs. Well, there was never any guidelines for women's health, to make sure that they stay healthy throughout the course of their lives. Today, that's no longer the case. We do have a set of recommended preventative services for women. There are things covered like treatment for gestational diabetes, to keep mothers and their children healthy; well woman visits, to treat women for the things that are unique about their health needs. And, of course, contraception, which was part of your piece just a second ago. There are- go ahead.

WRAGGE: I'm sorry, but I just want to- back to contraception. I want to talk about that. You know, there are groups that don't agree with contraception being advocated by the government. Why do you believe that- what do you say to those who believe that abstinence is still the best preventative measure?


CUTTER: Well, this isn't about abstinence, and this is not about preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is about women's health. There are known benefits- based on the science, based on the experts, based on the independent studies of the Institute of Medicine- that keep women healthy, if you lower the cost of contraceptive services. These are FDA-approved contraceptive services. It helps with keeping women healthy. It helps with lowering the rates of low birth weight, lowering premature births, and helping women with chronic conditions have children in a healthy way.

WRAGGE: Yeah. Why did the administration find it crucial to have a list like this with women's health care needs at this point?

CUTTER: Well, according to the law, we were charged with developing a set of recommended preventative services. A year ago, the Department of Health and Human Services directed the independent Institute of Medicine, to help us develop those recommended services, and today- they go into effect. One year from today, insurance companies- private insurance companies- have to provide the services with no out-of-pocket costs. Many of the benefits that we're announcing today are already part of large private health care plans- employer plans, and they're part of federal health care benefits. Members of Congress have these benefits. Now, they're going to be available to all women.

WRAGGE: All right. Stephanie Cutter, thank you very much for taking the time this morning. We appreciate it.

CUTTER: Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center