NPR Slavishly Turns to EEOC, ACLU to Boost Federal Contraception Mandate

Julie Rovner, NPR's on-staff shill for ObamaCare, filed an unashamedly one-sided report on Friday's Morning Edition about the controversial Obama administration mandate that forces religious institutions to include coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and birth control.

Rovner turned to only two individuals for her pro-mandate report: Peggy Mastroianni, general counsel at the federal government's own EEOC, an organization which recently got slapped down in a unanimous Supreme Court decision concerning the rights of houses of worship in hiring and personnel matters; and Sarah Lipton-Lubet, a lawyer for the notoriously far-left American Civil Liberties Union, who until May 2011, worked for the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights.

Host Steve Inskeep introduced the correspondent's report by claiming that "for all the controversy over this [Obama administration] policy, it turns out that a similar requirement has existed for years, and it's already been tested in court." Immediately, Rovner acted as a stenographer for those who back the mandate:

ROVNER: One of the things that has most frustrated backers of the birth control mandate is the requirement itself is not so new. Sarah Lipton-Lubet of the ACLU says the only really new part is that for the first time, women won't have to pay a deductible or co-payment before they can get contraceptives.

Julie Rovner, NPR Correspondent; & Ezra Klein, Washington Post Columnist; photo posted at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/presspol/news_events/archive/2010/health-care-panel_04-05-10.html | NewsBusters.orgThe NPR journalist [at right, with liberal columnist Ezra Klein during a 2010 panel on ObamaCare at Harvard University] would go on to play five sound bites from Lipton-Lubet. At no point did she disclose that the ACLU attorney worked for the Center for Reproductive Rights. To give a further idea of her background, the ACLU's own press release from May 6, 2011, announcing Lipton-Lubet's employment there, also noted that the counselor "earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was...Articles Editor of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism." All of the remaining clips that Rovner played during her report came from Mastroianni, whose specific title is "Associate Legal Counsel in the [EEOC's] Office of Legal Counsel."

Later in her report, the correspondent spotlighted "the trend of states passing their own laws requiring contraceptive coverage. Today, 28 states have such laws. Several of those states have no exceptions at all for religious employers, but several do. And in many cases, those exceptions look a lot like the one in the rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services last month. The ACLU's Lipton-Lubet says that's no coincidence."

Rovner also tag-teamed with the pro-abortion lawyer to play up how "the social service agency Catholic Charities sued in both California and New York in 2004 and 2006, respectively.....in both states, she says, the cases got to each state's highest court, where justices resoundingly found in favor of the contraceptive requirement, and against the idea that it was an infringement of religious liberty." Lipton-Lubet added, "In fact, the litigation in New York was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided, we don't need to hear that case."

The NPR journalist has an extensive history of not only promoting the supposed benefits of ObamaCare in her reports, but also slanting towards left-wing advocates of contraception.

The full transcript of Julie Rovner's report from Friday's Morning Edition on NPR:

STEVE INSKEEP: Now, for all the controversy over this [Obama administration] policy, it turns out that a similar requirement has existed for years, and it's already been tested in court.

NPR's Julie Rovner has more.

JULIE ROVNER: One of the things that has most frustrated backers of the birth control mandate is the requirement itself is not so new. Sarah Lipton-Lubet of the ACLU says the only really new part is that for the first time, women won't have to pay a deductible or co-payment before they can get contraceptives.

SARAH LIPTON-LUBET, ACLU: But as a legal matter, a constitutional matter, it's completely unremarkable.


ROVNER: What gave contraceptive coverage its first big boost was a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission back in December of the year 2000. Two nurses had filed a complaint because their health plan covered other preventive services, but not birth control. In that ruling, the EEOC found that a 1978 law- the Pregnancy Disability Act, or PDA- prevents discrimination in the provision of birth control used to prevent pregnancy, says Peggy Mastroianni, EEOC's general counsel.

PEGGY MASTROIANNI, EEOC: That the PDA covers, not only people who are pregnant, but also discrimination based on the ability to become pregnant, or potential for pregnancy.

ROVNER: Back in 2000, the EEOC also looked at whether failing to cover contraception, when it's used for medical reasons - not to prevent pregnancy- violated Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

MASTROIANNI: And under that analysis, because these prescription contraceptives are available only for women, everybody who is affected by their exclusion is female, and that is simply straightforward Title VII sex discrimination.

ROVNER: The EEOC ruling, though not technically legally-binding on every employer, had an immediate effect. It was cited in lawsuits, and helped accelerate the trend of states passing their own laws requiring contraceptive coverage. Today, 28 states have such laws. Several of those states have no exceptions at all for religious employers, but several do. And in many cases, those exceptions look a lot like the one in the rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services last month.

The ACLU's Lipton-Lubet says that's no coincidence.

LIPTON-LUBET: The HHS rule was modeled on the exceptions in several state laws, including California, New York, [and] Oregon.

ROVNER: Specifically, those states and the new federal rule exempt religious organizations that have as their primary purpose- quote, 'the inculcation of religious values'- and who primarily employ and serve people of that religion. That means, in practice, that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship are exempt; but religious hospitals, universities and social service agencies are not. And while lawsuits are now being filed, they're not the first to challenge that distinction.

Lipton-Lubet says the social service agency Catholic Charities sued in both California and New York in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

LIPTON-LUBET: In both the California and New York cases, Catholic Charities made arguments very similar to the ones that are being made now with respect to the HHS rule.

ROVNER: That would be that requiring them to include contraception in their health plans would force them to violate their religious beliefs.

LIPTON-LUBET: Those arguments failed in that litigation, and they're no more persuasive here.

ROVNER: And in both states, she says, the cases got to each state's highest court, where justices resoundingly found in favor of the contraceptive requirement, and against the idea that it was an infringement of religious liberty.

LIPTON-LUBET: In fact, the litigation in New York was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided, we don't need to hear that case.

ROVNER: But opponents have said when the federal government acts, it's a whole new legal ballgame, and as we've seen, certainly a whole new political one. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

[H/t: Joshua Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.]

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