CBS stood out as the only Big Three network to devote full coverage to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Tuesday night stay of the federal government's birth control/abortifacient mandate under ObamaCare. As of Thursday morning, CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News devoted three full reports and a news brief to the ruling against the controversial regulation.
By contrast, NBC's morning and evening newscasts have only aired one news brief on Sotomayor's decision, and mentioned it in passing in two other reports on the Affordable Care Act. ABC has yet to report on the development on either Good Morning America or World News.
Substitute anchor Terrell Brown gave a news brief minutes into Wednesday's CBS This Morning about the ruling from Sotomayor, mere hours after she handed it down:
TERRELL BROWN: President Obama's health care law takes effect this morning, but one part of the act is on hold. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor signed an order last night blocking a requirement for religion-affiliated organizations to include birth control in their health insurance. An organization of Catholic nuns in Denver argues the rule violates the group's religious rights. The government has until Friday morning to respond.
Just under an hour later, correspondent Susan McGinnis noted how the Supreme Court justice "blocked part of the President's health care law from starting today." McGinnis added that "Justice Sotomayor delayed the requirement that religious organizations offer birth control as part of their health insurance plans or face penalties. The request for the stay came from...the Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged in Denver, which said it goes against their Catholic beliefs."
Later in her report, the CBS journalist underlined how "lawyers for the Little Sisters argued the change still requires the nuns to find an insurer who will provide contraceptive coverage, which they are opposed to." Brown then pointed out that "more than two million Americans will gain health insurance this morning, when the Affordable Care Act kicks in. That's how many people have enrolled in private health care plans under ObamaCare. The White House had hoped for 3.3 million enrollees by this time."
Correspondent Chip Reid also filed two reports on the stay against the birth control mandate on Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning. Both segments featured soundbites from Dan Blomberg of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Marsha Greenberger of the pro-abortion National Women's Law Center.
On Wednesday's Today, NBC's Peter Alexander devoted a 24-second news brief to Sotomayor's ruling:
PETER ALEXANDER: A Supreme Court justice has blocked the ObamaCare birth control mandate for some religious organizations. Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary exemption to some groups affiliated with the Catholic Church. The order prevents the government from forcing those employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception. The exemption was issued just hours before the mandate would have gone into effect.
Later in the day, during a full report on NBC Nightly News about ObamaCare going into full effect, correspondent Tom Costello mentioned the "Supreme Court injunction giving several Catholic groups a temporary exemption to parts of the new law that require employers to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception. While the administration has issued rules that it believes address religious concerns, several challenges are now working their way through the courts."
The following morning, on Thursday's Today, Costello trumpeted how "the biggest challenge is the Supreme Court injunction which gives certain Catholic charities and employers a temporary exemption to parts of the law that require employers to provide insurance coverage which includes contraception. Those groups oppose the – that requirement on religious and moral grounds."
ABC's Bianna Golodryga noted ObamaCare's first full day during a news brief on Wednesday's Good Morning America, but failed to mention Sotomayor's ruling:
BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Today is the first day of health insurance coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration says more than 2.1 million people have selected a private insurance plan. But even the administration admits there will be problems, as people begin their new health plans.
The full transcript of Susan McGinnis's report from Wednesday's CBS This Morning, and Chip Reid's reports from Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's CBS This Morning:
08:02 am EST
CBS This Morning
TERRELL BROWN: President Obama's health care law officially launches this morning, but one part of ObamaCare will not begin yet.
As Susan McGinnis reports, a last-minute order excuses religious groups from a government effort to expand birth control coverage.
SUSAN MCGINNIS (voice-over): Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had a busy New Year's Eve. She blocked part of the President's health care law from starting today; and then, dropped the famed crystal ball in Times Square to welcome in 2014. (video clip of the ball drop in New York City's Times Square)
Justice Sotomayor delayed the requirement that religious organizations offer birth control as part of their health insurance plans or face penalties. The request for the stay came from a Catholic group – the Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged in Denver, which said it goes against their Catholic beliefs. Religious groups fought against offering contraceptives since it was first proposed as part of the Affordable Care Act. The White House eventually offered a compromise, which keeps the organizations from paying for the coverage.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from February 10, 2012 press conference): The insurance company – not the hospital, not the charity – will be required to reach out and offer the women contraceptive care free of charge.
MCGINNIS: But lawyers for the Little Sisters argued the change still requires the nuns to find an insurer who will provide contraceptive coverage, which they are opposed to. The Obama administration has until 10 am Friday morning to respond to Sotomayor's order. Susan McGinnis, CBS News, Washington.
BROWN (live): More than two million Americans will gain health insurance this morning, when the Affordable Care Act kicks in. That's how many people have enrolled in private health care plans under ObamaCare. The White House had hoped for 3.3 million enrollees by this time.
06:37 pm EST
CBS Evening News
MAURICE DUBOIS: This was the day that President Obama's health care law took effect – most of it, anyway. A Supreme Court justice temporarily blocked a controversial part of the law, as it applies to some religious organizations.
Chip Reid explains.
CHIP REID (voice-over): The one-page order, issued late last night by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, temporarily exempts some church-affiliated organizations from a requirement in the health care law that they provide health insurance that includes birth control.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Good morning, sisters!
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Morning!
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Good morning, sir!
REID: Those organizations include the Little Sisters of the Poor – an order of Roman Catholic nuns who provide nursing care for the elderly. In their petition to the Supreme Court, they said they could face millions of dollars in fines because they cannot comply with the law's requirement to provide access to contraceptives, which are forbidden by their religion.
The Obama administration included a compromise in the law that allows religious groups to sign a certification opting out of the contraceptive requirement – leaving responsibility for providing that coverage to insurance companies.
But that's not good enough, according to Daniel Blomberg of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the nuns in the lawsuit.
DAN BLOMBERG, BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: And the Little Sisters say, we can't do that. Our religious beliefs prevent us not only from participating directly, but also participating by forcing someone else to do it.
REID: The case could affect hundreds of non-profit Catholic organizations and ministries across the country. Marsha Greenberger is with the National Women's Law Center.
MARCIA GREENBERGER, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER CO-PRESIDENT: Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women, at some point in their lives, will use contraceptives. The issue is, whose religious freedom are we talking about – an employer's religious freedom, or an individual woman's own religious judgments about what she should be able to do herself?
DUBOIS (live): Chip Reid is with the President tonight in Honolulu. And Chip, this is by no means the only challenge to the contraceptive requirement of the health care law, right?
REID: That's absolutely correct, Maurice. Numerous religious organizations have filed federal lawsuits against the contraceptive requirement; and even some private companies have filed lawsuits, saying that it violates their religious rights. All of this, Maurice, is expected eventually to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
DUBOIS: Chip Reid, thank you very much tonight.
07:10 am EST
CBS This Morning
NORAH O'DONNELL: And now that it's 2014, most of the President's health care law is officially in effect. But one of ObamaCare's more controversial provisions is on hold this morning.
Chip Reid is in Honolulu, as the President continues his Hawaii vacation, with more on that. Chip, good morning to you.
CHIP REID: Well, good morning, Norah and Anthony. You know, the Affordable Care Act suffered yet another setback before it even got out of the starting gate, as a Supreme Court justice raised questions about one part of the law.
[CBS News Graphic: "Provision Delayed: ACA's Birth Control Coverage Requirement On Hold"]
REID (voice-over): Just before she dropped the ball in New York's Times Square, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor issued an injunction – temporarily exempting some religious groups from part of the Affordable Care Act. In her one-page order, Sotomayor said the groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, should not be required to provide employees contraception coverage – at least until the issue can be revolved by the Court.
Dan Blomberg is with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the nuns in court.
DAN BLOMBERG, BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: We're talking about whether or not the federal government can – on pains of millions of dollars in fines – order somebody to provide contraceptive drugs against their faith.
REID: The health care law allows non-profit religious groups to sign a certification and opt out, leaving contraceptive coverage to the insurance companies. But that still requires groups, like the Little Sisters, to authorize their insurers to provide contraception – something they say violates their beliefs.
MARCIA GREENBERGER, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER CO-PRESIDENT: Whose religious freedom are we talking about – an employer's religious freedom, or an individual woman's own religious judgments about what she should be able to do herself?
REID: Despite the many stumbles in the Affordable Care Act rollout, 2014 will be the first chance for millions of Americans to use their new health plans.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: For the cautionary reduction-
REID: Some who enrolled in plans with low premiums might be surprised by the large co-pays they have to shell out at the doctor's office. Others could find they are only allowed to see a shrinking network of pre-approved physicians.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You don't mind scrolling through there?
REID: Still, between the health care exchanges and the law's expansion of Medicaid, the administration says nearly six million people are now covered through the Affordable Care Act.
REID (on-camera): The White House is now trying to change the conversation on the Affordable Care Act. On the White House website, they're asking supporters to send in their stories of positive experiences with their new health plans. Anthony and Norah?
ANTHONY MASON: Chip Reid – thanks, Chip.