NPR Slams Perry on Abortion with Objections of 'Family Planning Advocates'

On Tuesday's Morning Edition, NPR's Wade Goodwyn carried water for pro-abortion activists who are targeting Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature for cutting the state funding of "women's health clinics." Goodwyn didn't give an ideological label for the activists, referring to them merely as "family planning advocates," and highlighted their objection that some of the cut funds were now going to crisis pregnancy centers.

Hosts Steve Inskeep and David Greene pushed a liberal talking point against the Republican presidential contender in his introduction for the correspondent's report: "Texas has been attracting people who move there for jobs. At the same time, though, more than a quarter of the state's population has no health insurance, which is more than any other state. Hospital emergency rooms and dozens of women's health clinics have been filling the gap." Greene continued that "this year, Perry and the state legislature drastically cut funding for the clinics."

Goodwyn led his segment with a human interest story of sorts about one such clinic in the state capital of Austin, where a young woman gets her quarterly contraceptive shots (NPR correspondent Julie Rovner did something similar in a biased, pro-federal funding of birth control report in April 2011). He spotlighted how a doctor at the People's Clinic inspired the woman to go "back to school and is [now] two months away from becoming a medical technician."

The NPR journalist then played up that "for hundreds of thousands of Texas women and teens between the ages of 13 and 50, these 71 clinics serve as their gateway to health care -- the only time they see a nurse practitioner or a doctor. But this year, the Republican-controlled Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry cut these clinics' funding by two-thirds." He followed this by playing a sound bite from the director of the People's Clinic, who tore a page out of the playbook of Planned Parenthood: "That particular funding was used, obviously, [not just] for...strict birth control, but also Pap smears, breast cancer screening, for diabetes, thyroid disorders, anemia, high cholesterol."

Goodwyn used two more left-of-center talking points on the contraceptive funding debate later in his report:

GOODWYN: These cuts are less about saving money than about abortion and contraception. Evangelicals and Tea Party supporters are ascendant in Texas. Governor Perry is their champion, and these cuts are evidence of their political power. They want to get government money out of the abortion process, and if contraceptive services have to suffer a bit of collateral damage in the process, so be it....These cuts to family planning clinics won't in the end save Texas money. The state estimates that nearly 300,000 women will lose access to family planning services. That will result in 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas already spends more than any other state for teen pregnancies. In San Antonio alone, unplanned children born to teens would fill 175 kindergarten classrooms each year.

He followed the second talking point by playing up the concerns of the liberal birth control/abortion proponents: "What's particularly galling to family planning advocates is that part of the money, $8.4 million, that was cut from family planning will now go to crisis pregnancy centers around the state. Crisis pregnancy centers are part of the pro-life movement's answer to family planning clinics."

Towards the end of his report, the NPR correspondent did spotlight the efforts of a crisis pregnancy center run by a Baptist church. Unlike the "family planning advocates" however, he labeled the faith community "historically one of the most conservative and powerful Baptist churches in North Texas." Thus, he follows in the footsteps of his colleague Julie Rovner, who, back in July 2011, spun the debate over a government regulation mandating private insurance companies to cover contraceptives as being between "women's health groups" and conservatives which were clearly identified as such.

Goodwyn concluded the segment by again carrying water for the liberal side: "The fact that millions of dollars that used to go to family planning clinics will in the future go to crisis pregnancy centers across Texas causes no small amount of bitterness among those who staff the women's health clinics. It's a feeling they're probably going to have to get used to."

Earlier in 2011, the journalist filed a report on illegal immigration which also slanted against Gov. Perry's record. He gushed over the "thousands of illegal immigrants building neighborhoods" during the "Hispanic-friendly" term of then-Governor George W. Bush, as compared to the present day, where "in the halls of the Texas Capitol in 2011, Bush's approach is considered insufficiently conservative by most Republicans."

The full transcript of Wade Goodwyn's report from Tuesday's Morning Edition:

DAVID GREENE: As soon as he became a presidential frontrunner, Rick Perry guaranteed a closer look at his record as governor of Texas. Perry himself has welcomed it. In fact, he's held out Texas as a model for job creation.

STEVE INSKEEP: The state's unemployment rate is high but not as high as the nation as a whole, and Texas has been attracting people who move there for jobs.

GREENE: At the same time, though, more than a quarter of the state's population has no health insurance, which is more than any other state. Hospital emergency rooms and dozens of women's health clinics have been filling the gap.

But as NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports, this year, Perry and the state legislature drastically cut funding for the clinics.

WADE GOODWYN: At the People's Clinic in East Austin, nurse practitioner Dianne Rainosek examines 19-year-old Rosalinda Roman.

DIANNE RAINOSEK: Looks like you've lapsed on your birth control method, so I'm so glad you're back in today.

GOODWYN: Roman discovered the People's Clinic after she got pregnant at 16 and gave birth to a baby boy. Now, she comes every three months. She gets her comprehensive well-woman exam and her contraceptive shot.

RAINOSEK: Are you wanting to restart that method or are there other methods we need to talk about?

ROSALINDA ROMAN: No, I like the Depo shot. It hasn't given me any problems. I've been on it for, you know, two years almost, and I like it.

GOODWYN: With the encouragement of Rainosek, Roman has gone back to school and is two months away from becoming a medical technician.

ROMAN: I come here and I do my annual physical here. I also get birth control- Depo shot. I love it, I don't have any problems with it, and I don't know what I would do with a second child right now.

GOODWYN: For hundreds of thousands of Texas women and teens between the ages of 13 and 50, these 71 clinics serve as their gateway to health care- the only time they see a nurse practitioner or a doctor. But this year, the Republican-controlled Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry cut these clinics' funding by two-thirds.

Dr. Celia Neavel runs the People's Clinic and says it's a devastating blow.


DOCTOR CELIA NEAVEL: So that particular funding was used, obviously, for just strict birth control, but also Pap smears, breast cancer screening, for diabetes, thyroid disorders, anemia, high cholesterol-

GOODWYN: These cuts are less about saving money than about abortion and contraception. Evangelicals and Tea Party supporters are ascendant in Texas. Governor Perry is their champion, and these cuts are evidence of their political power. They want to get government money out of the abortion process, and if contraceptive services have to suffer a bit of collateral damage in the process, so be it. When the Texas Tribune asked Nacogdoches Republican House member Wayne Christian, a supporter of the family planning cuts, is this a war on birth control, Christian said yes.

TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE WAYNE CHRISTIAN: Well, of course, it's a war on birth control and abortions and everything. That's what family planning is supposed to be about.

GOODWYN: Family planning clinics are routinely referred to by many Texas Republican legislators as abortion clinics, even though none of the 71 Texas clinics that receive government funding provide abortions. Texas and federal law prohibits that. But most women's health clinics will refer women or teens who want an abortion to a provider. In an interview with NPR, Representative Wayne Christian said that's enough.

CHRISTIAN: They're sitting here referring women out to receive abortions. Those are the clinics, including Planned Parenthood, we were targeting.

GOODWYN: Governor Perry's spokesman did not reply to requests for comment. But Christian says there's no question the Texas governor is an advocate, enthusiastically signing this approach into law.

CHRISTIAN: Governor Perry has supported the pro-life agenda consistently throughout his time in office.

GOODWYN: These cuts to family planning clinics won't in the end save Texas money. The state estimates that nearly 300,000 women will lose access to family planning services. That will result in 20,000 additional unplanned births. Texas already spends more than any other state for teen pregnancies. In San Antonio alone, unplanned children born to teens would fill 175 kindergarten classrooms each year.

And what's particularly galling to family planning advocates is that part of the money, $8.4 million, that was cut from family planning will now go to crisis pregnancy centers around the state. Crisis pregnancy centers are part of the pro-life movement's answer to family planning clinics.

CAROLINE CLINE: And we have three counseling rooms here, and this is where we see our clients and they're all very private and obviously confidential.

GOODWYN: Caroline Cline is president of the Downtown Pregnancy Center. Its beautiful office is located inside First Baptist Church's building, historically one of the most conservative and powerful Baptist churches in North Texas. Although it kind of looks like a doctor's office, this is not a medical clinic. There are no well-woman examinations, no contraceptive services, free or paid, no Pap smears.

CLINE: You can see we have a sonogram machine and everything is private back here as well, and it's also where we do our STD screening-

GOODWYN: There are 165 crisis pregnancy centers across Texas and plenty won't take any state money. The Downtown Pregnancy Center doesn't. The centers are for women who are willing to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. But Cline says, heartbreakingly, only one to two percent are willing to let their babies be adopted. Cline says teens will say to her I'd rather abort than give my baby up for adoption.

CLINE: It's disappointing. It is very disappointing.

GOODWYN: The crisis pregnancy centers put up billboards letting frightened pregnant teens know that these are places they can turn to for help. But that can lead to a bit of a misunderstanding.

CLINE: Lots of people calling just to ask what kind of abortions do you offer, how much does an abortion cost, wanting abortion information.

GOODWYN: Nevertheless, these young women are not turned away.

CLINE: We let them know that we don't refer for abortion or perform abortions here, but we're a great place to start.

GOODWYN: The fact that millions of dollars that used to go to family planning clinics will in the future go to crisis pregnancy centers across Texas causes no small amount of bitterness among those who staff the women's health clinics. It's a feeling they're probably going to have to get used to. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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