The most important talking point used by those who support the HHS contraception mandate is that the Catholic bishops and their allies are “out of touch” and represent a minority view.
You have no doubt heard things like “98 percent of Catholic women use contraception” and “most Americans, especially women, support the HHS mandate.”
Well, it’s not true. The first assertion is based on a study by the Guttmacher Institute, which, as an affiliate of Planned Parenthood, is hardly an objective observer. Even the Washington Post compared the media to Pinocchio for using these statistics.
In fact, the most that can be concluded is that many sexually active Catholic women have, at some point in their lives, used contraception. That says nothing about whether they and other Americans support the HHS mandate.
Speaking of which, the claim that most Americans, especially women, support the HHS mandate is equally bogus. I know that will surprise you, given what the administration and the media are constantly telling us. But repeating a falsehood doesn’t make it true.
For example, a recent New York Times story told readers that, according to its latest poll, “women were split as to whether health insurance plans should cover the costs of birth control and whether employers with religious objections should be able to opt out.”
As Mickey Kaus at the Daily Caller put it, “if the Times says women were ‘split,’ you know that must mean they were actually narrowly against the [Times’] preferred position.” And that’s precisely so. By a 46-44 margin, women favored a religious exemption for all employers. The gap widened to 53-38 in the case of religiously-affiliated employers.
Men, who do vote after all, were even more supportive of opt-out provisions. Overall, Americans, by a 57-to-36 margin, favor allowing religiously-affiliated employers. Remember that statistic.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed similar results: by 49 to 34 percent, Americans oppose requiring “religious institutions” to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
Now, like I say, this may surprise you. It certainly comes as a surprise to the media. While, as Kaus says, the president “appears to be losing the public debate” on the HHS mandate, the media, which overwhelmingly supports the mandate, can’t see it. When the president’s approval ratings drop, they cite gas prices instead.
While they may not be able to see it, but I can, and you should too. This is a battle that is both crucial and winnable. The important thing is to keep the focus on where it belongs: religious freedom. The early polls where a reaction to the media’s initial announcement that this was all about contraception, but the Catholic bishops and everybody else has been working hard to educate them.
And you need to continue to educate people that this is about religious liberty. This battle won’t be won in the pews — it will be won over the backyard fence and during kids’ baseball games. It’s getting warm outside, so break out the grill, throw on some burgers and hot dogs, invite your neighbors over, and start talking. And then phone and email your legislators and the administration.
As Mark Twain once said, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Okay, folks, put on your shoes; we are winning.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.
Publication date: March 19, 2012