Capitol building and birth control pill pack
Media Matters / Andrea Austria 

Research/Study Research/Study

Corporate broadcast networks spent only 2 minutes covering Senate GOP blocking nationwide access to contraception

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt was the only morning or evening news show to cover the vote

On June 5, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have protected nationwide access to contraception. From June 5 through June 7, corporate broadcast nightly news and morning shows almost completely ignored the vote, with NBC Nightly News being the sole program to cover it. 

  • Senate GOP blocked a bill ensuring protected contraception access amid right-wing attacks on reproductive rights

    • Senate Republicans voted against the Right to Contraception Act on June 5, with some arguing that birth control is safeguarded by a 1965 Supreme Court precedent. Democrats have pushed back against this reasoning, pointing out that the Supreme Court already overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, eliminating the precedent that had protected abortion rights nationwide for nearly 50 years. The Senate GOP also blocked the bill from moving forward in June 2023. [NBC News, 6/5/24; National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, 6/21/23]
    • Reproductive health and rights are already under threat nationwide, with many Republican-led states trying to institute bans on birth control and abortion medication. Over the past few months, Louisiana’s GOP lawmakers passed a bill classifying abortion medications as “controlled and dangerous substances,” and Missouri’s Republican-led House held up a health care bill over objections to birth control access. But polling shows that 74% of Americans think birth control should be “easier to access” and 78% believe birth control pills should be available without prescription. [The Washington Post, 6/5/24; Missouri Independent, 5/8/24; PBS NewsHour, 5/23/24; Navigator Research, 3/6/24]
  • Broadcast news mostly kept their viewers in the dark about the GOP blocking the Right to Contraception Act

    • From June 5, when the bill was blocked, to June 7 at 11 a.m. ET, NBC Nightly News was the sole corporate broadcast evening or morning news program to devote any coverage to the vote. The show aired a 2-minute segment with senior legal correspondent Laura Jarrett contextualizing the bill being blocked among other recent “battles over state laws” restricting contraception access. Jarrett also noted, “As part of the high court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice [Clarence] Thomas called on his colleagues to reconsider their past ruling guaranteeing contraception access, underscoring the fragility of all reproductive rights.” Jarrett’s report also highlighted West Alabama Women’s Center’s Robin Marty, who spoke of the importance of protecting birth control while Alabama has an abortion ban. [NBC News, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, 6/5/24]
    • ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ Mornings and Evening News, and NBC’s Today did not air a single segment covering the vote during the studied period. By comparison, cable news outlets CNN and MSNBC covered the contraception bill for 17 minutes and 58 minutes, respectively, on the day it was blocked by Senate Republicans. Meanwhile, Fox News aired just 3 minutes about the legislation on June 5, fitting with a larger pattern of the conservative cable network offering less coverage of recent threats to reproductive rights. [Media Matters, 6/6/24]
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched in the SnapStream video database for all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight; CBS’ Mornings and Evening News; and NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News for either of the terms “Senate” or “Republican” or any variations of either of the terms “vote” or “Democrat” within close proximity of any of the terms “reproductive,” “abortion,” or “birth control” or any variations of the term “contraceptive” and also within close proximity of any of the terms “bill,” “legislation,” “law,” “measure,” “act,” “right,” “access,” or “effort” from June 5, 2024, when the U.S. Senate voted on the Right to Contraception Act, to 11 a.m. ET June 7, 2024, when NBC’s Today 3rd Hour ends.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the June 5, 2024, U.S. Senate vote on the Right to Contraception Act was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the vote. 

    We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the vote with one another. 

     We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the Right to Contraception vote without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the vote scheduled to air later in the broadcast. 

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.