NPR Can't Find Anyone Who Supported Defunding 'Noncontroversial' Title X

March 21st, 2011 6:32 PM

NPR's Liz Halloran touted the federal government's Title X subsidy of contraceptives as "largely noncontroversial" in a Monday article on, despite the House of Representatives' 240-185 vote in February to defund the program. Halloran also quoted exclusively from liberal Title X supporters or from conservatives who had second thoughts about targeting the program.

It only took her two paragraphs for the correspondent to use this slanted label of the federal program in her article, "Abortion Foes Target Family Planning Program." She also highlighted the longstanding funding of "family planning programs that provide contraceptive and related health and family services to millions of low-income women and men" and noted how Title X passed with "bipartisan support in Congress."

Halloran continued that "Title X, which serves more than 5 million men and women annually, is on House Republicans' chopping block. Supporters of defunding have characterized it as an effort to strip funds from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that use other funds to provide legal abortions, without singling out any particular group. The House in February voted 240-185 to defund Title X in the current budget year." But instead of tracking down one of the representatives who voted for this, or from one of their allies in the conservative movement, the journalist turned to a Republican skeptic:

But even staunch anti-abortion legislators like Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who has crusaded against federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, say that jettisoning the Title X program may be going too far.

"I've never advocated reducing funding for Title X," Pence said during a recent radio interview with the chairman of a county Right to Life organization in his home state.

"Title X clinics do important work in our inner cities," Pence said. "They provide health services for women and children that might not otherwise have access to them."

...Pence says that his efforts to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, which estimates that abortion accounts for less than 4 percent of the services it provides, were never intended to "touch women's health services."

Instead, he says, he has been focused on preventing Title X funding from going to an organization that provides legal abortions — even if the funding isn't used for that procedure.

The NPR correspondent then turned to left-of-center organizations and individuals, who bashed the effort to defund Title X:

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, says the issues have become conflated.

"Both of them are a huge mistake in terms of public policy, and in terms of women's reproductive health and rights," she says. "Both Title X and Planned Parenthood are critical."

The Republicans' targeting of Title X, in fact, has brought more attention to the issue overall, say family planning and abortion rights advocates like Northup.

The progressive political organizations Emily's List, which raises money for women candidates who support legal abortion, and last week launched a campaign, "Stop the War on Women," to mobilize their base against cuts to women's health programs....

Linda Gordon, a history professor at New York University, says she sees in this moment an intersection of the Christian right's anti-abortion movement with the Tea Party movement's attack on big government.

"Many people in the anti-abortion movement also shade off into being anti-birth control, too," says Gordon, author of The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America....

Gordon says that a fight over funding for contraceptives and family planning "seems bizarre to me as a historian."

"We're a very modern society technologically," she says. "But with that modernity has come change in traditional social relations, and anxiety about that."

Towards the end of her article, Halloran quoted again from Rep. Pence, and noted Senator Lisa Murkowski's opposition to defunding Title X: "Murkowski...last week said she would not endorse the House proposal to eliminate Title X and defund Planned Parenthood, defining the funding as crucial in her state. Pence, however, insists that defunding Planned Parenthood is on the horizon. 'This is the moment,' he says. 'Now is the time.'"

The journalist follows in the footsteps of her colleague Mara Liasson's Friday report, which played up some conservatives' support for "comprehensive" immigration reform, while conspicuously omitting quoting from those who oppose such proposals.

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