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NBC: Birth Control Debate That 'Came Out of Nowhere' Now the 'Third Rail' of Politics

Pretending the Obama administration did not intentionally turn birth control into a campaign issue with the ObamaCare insurance mandate, on Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams pleaded ignorance to viewers: "Birth control seems to have become, as one headline writer put it today, 'The Third Rail of American Politics Right Now,' and this happened really out of nowhere."  

In the report that followed, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell described the issue as a "political fight over government's place in women's health and reproduction." She touted how discussion of the topic "prompted boos" at Wednesday's Republican debate, while receiving "rare applause at a Democrats-only staged hearing today. Set off by the outrage Democrats vented when Republicans called only men to testify last week on religious institutions and birth control."

After playing a sound bite of Nancy Pelosi leading the left-wing congressional panel, O'Donnell noted particular testimony: "Democrats invited one woman, a Georgetown law student, to talk about hardships for some women who don't have insurance that covers birth control." A clip played of Sandra Fluke pushing the need for contraception: "Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the side of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary."

What O'Donnell failed to mention was that Fluke was not simply a "law student," but the former president of the Georgetown University chapter of Law Students For Reproductive Justice, a liberal pro-choice organization.

O'Donnell warned that the contraception fight was expanding, "with some states looking to restrict abortion and funding for women's health programs." She explained: "In Virginia late today, after protests and a national spotlight, legislators changed a controversial bill that would have required an invasive procedure before a woman could have an abortion."

Wrapping up her report, O'Donnell noted that "Some Republican voters want this debate," but quickly added: "Analysts say these social issues are more likely to help Democrats." A sound bite followed from Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report announcing: "This issue has given Democrats at every level an issue to talk to women voters about and particularly independent women."

So, according to NBC, not only did the birth control debate "come out of nowhere," but now the Democrats are winning the argument.

Here is a full transcript of the February 23 report:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The politics of birth control. Women, contraception, and a national fight over this issue that came out of nowhere.

7:04PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: The price of gas isn't the only contentious campaign issue tonight. Birth control seems to have become, as one headline writer put it today, "The Third Rail of American Politics Right Now," and this happened really out of nowhere. In fact, it was a question about birth control that got the biggest audience response at last night's GOP debate in Arizona. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell has more on the politics of birth control and women's health.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Protests today in Richmond, Virginia.

PROTESTERS: Our bodies! Our lives!

O'DONNELL: A flashpoint in the political fight over government's place in women's health and reproduction. So provocative, the mere mention of birth control prompted boos...

RICK SANTORUM: I don't support that.

O'DONNELL: ...at the Republican debate.

SANTORUM: Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it.

O'DONNELL: And rare applause at a Democrats-only staged hearing today. Set off by the outrage Democrats vented when Republicans called only men to testify last week on religious institutions and birth control.

NANCY PELOSI: We've heard from over 300,000 people saying we want women's voices to be heard.

O'DONNELL: Democrats invited one woman, a Georgetown law student, to talk about hardships for some women who don't have insurance that covers birth control.

SANDRA FLUKE [GEORGETOWN LAW STUDENT]: Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the side of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary.

O'DONNELL: Nearly 11 million women use birth control pills, the most common method of contraception, the political fire is broader, with some states looking to restrict abortion and funding for women's health programs. In Virginia late today, after protests and a national spotlight, legislators changed a controversial bill that would have required an invasive procedure before a woman could have an abortion. Some Republican voters want this debate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Social issues should play a very high priority in the campaign.

O'DONNELL: Analysts say these social issues are more likely to help Democrats.

JENNIFER DUFFY [THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT]: This issue has given Democrats at every level an issue to talk to women voters about and particularly independent women.

O'DONNELL: Making women without party ties the most sought-after voters this year. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.