Sens. Ayotte and Shaheen: A Contrast in Honesty and Leadership on Religious Liberty

Both of my Senators have spoken out forcefully on the Obama administration’s new mandate requiring religious institutions to provide health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in violation our First Amendment right to religious liberty. Their remarks present a stark contrast in their levels of sincerity, intellectual honesty and respect for their constituents.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) was the first female U.S. Senator to speak out against the administration’s rule from the floor of the Senate. “This mandate places religious institutions in this impossible position of violating their core beliefs in order to comply with the mandate or dropping employee insurance coverage altogether. We should not be putting these organizations that do great work throughout this country in this position,” Ayotte argued.

She has also soundly denounced the politics of gender identity by stating plainly, “this is not a women’s rights issue. This is a religious liberty issue.”

Ayotte’s public comments on this matter have been honest, forthright and respectful of her constituents concerns.

Her colleague Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) presents an entirely different example. Shaheen took to the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal Wednesday along with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) to argue “why the birth control mandate makes sense.” Shaheen’s article is a textbook case of agitprop using selective data, straw men (literally, men) and identity politics.

Shaheen starts her argument off by deceptively conflating conscience issues with laudable and necessary medical procedures like breast exams. “It was a historic victory for women’s health when the Obama administration changed the law to require private health plans to provide preventive services including breast exams, HIV screening and contraception for free,” she writes.

We’re not stupid and we know why Shaheen is tossing non-controversial medical procedures into the mix – straw men make the best enemies. But her argument is intellectually insulting. No one opposes health coverage for breast exams. She’s just making that up. But the Senator should watch that “free” talk – someone is paying for it.

Shaheen wastes no time trying to change the playing field in the very next paragraph. This a not matter of religious liberty, but rather, she argues, “the real forces behind it are the same ones that sought to shut down the federal government last year over funding for women’s health care.” Yes, I remember all this Catholic Bishops hooting and hollering about shutting the government down like it was yesterday! It’s rare that I have a conversation with my priest in which he isn’t mashing his fist into his palm bemoaning the fact that the federal government is still open for business. I’m being sarcastic, of course. Shaheen’s argument is simply absurd.

(Oh, this just in: The secret-shut-down-the-government-and-kill-women cabal has recruited a new member – Shaheen’s Democrat colleague Sen. Bob Casey.)

The senator then dedicates a few paragraphs to the obligatory rigged statistics from various leftwing “institutes” and a Democrat pollster. Here’s just one example of her bogus presentation of “facts.” “A recent survey by Hart Research shows 71% of American voters, including 77% of Catholic women voters, supported this provision broadening access to birth control,” she writes. But Shaheen fails to mention the poll is almost two years old- it came out before all those ObamaCare-voting Democrats were thrown out of office in November 2010 – and was conducted on behalf of … wait for it … Planned Parenthood.

Considering how much taxpayer money Planned Parenthood receives every year, I suppose we should consider that poll “free,” too, eh? What’s more, from what I can determine, the survey in question represents a classic example of a polling company attempting to “push” respondents toward a pre-determined response. It appears to contain no mention at all of the potential violation of conscience within the provision in question.

What’s more, a brand new survey by Rasmussen reveals a very different result. According to Rasmussen, “Fifty-six percent (56%) of male voters are against the government requiring contraceptive coverage in a case like this. Female voters are almost evenly divided on the question. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Catholic voters oppose this requirement, as do 62% of Evangelical Christians, and 50% of other Protestants. Most non-Christians (56%) support the Obama Administration ruling.”

It may be convenient for Shaheen’s argument to regurgitate dusty, skewed data, but it’s also dishonest.

Shaheen wraps up by arguing the whole controversy is just a big mix up anyway. After all, this is “good health policy and good economic policy” and is “consistent with federal policy.” Oh, well! It’s policy … it must be serious and thoughtful.

But of course it isn’t, which is why there is such an outcry. And if I may deviate from my main point for a moment, government mandates requiring businesses to offer anything for “free” is, by nature, not “good economic policy.”

A quick summation of the two women Senators’ careers might explain why one has presented a rational, thoughtful argument and the other serves up so much partisan and ideological tripe. Ayotte is a former Attorney General – the first woman to hold that office in New Hampshire, I believe, though I don’t recall any self-congratulatory commemoration of that fact from her office – who has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States and prosecuted cop killers to the fullest extent of the law.

And Jeanne Shaheen? Well, she was a run-of-the-mill, liberal political operative with deep ties to pro-abortion and feminist groups. He rode a wave of gender identity politics into the governorship and she wastes no time reminding people she was the state’s first governess. She lost in her first bid for the U.S. Senate and waited around for another opportunity to run. She used the unpopularity of the Iraq War – a war she supported – to defeat Republican Sen. John Sununu.

In other words, Kelly Ayotte is a public servant. Jeanne Shaheen is a one-trick-pony party hack. Her dishonest, gender-baiting Op-Ed is of a piece with her entire dishonest career.