Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad: both abortion AND motherhood matter

This is my latest post for Global Comment


CBS has traditionally maintained a ban on advocacy ads, but when the network announced their intent to relax this restriction, Focus on the Family took the opportunity to create an anti-abortion ad. Super Bowl commercials are assured to receive a high rate of viewership, not to mention the fact that football is generally a bastion of patriarchal masculinity.

The ad itself features the story of Pam Tebow, who was allegedly told by doctors during her pregnancy with Timothy Tebow that she should abort because she had a medical condition that threatened her life. Like all pro-life advertisements, this is framed as a “choice for life,” but the ad neglects to mention that Ms. Tebow made this so-called decision in the Philippines, where abortion has been illegal since 1870. Can a choice really have been made under these circumstances? And what to the meaning of the choice to become a parent in general? Could we be missing something important here?

Organizations like NOW and The Center for Reproductive Rights have been very active in challenging the position that this ad represents choice. In a letter to Matthew Margo [PDF link], the Senior Vice President of Program Practices for CBS, The Center for Reproductive services contend that considering the dire consequences for women who are found guilty of terminating a pregnancy, it is highly unlikely that Ms. Tebow was indeed advised to procure an abortion. Both NOW and the Center for Reproductive Rights assert that this is ad does not meet the standards that CBS has set regarding accuracy in advertising.

NOW and The Center for Reproductive Rights present a cogent argument to invalidate the claims made by both Ms. Tebow and her son, Timothy. Pro-life groups in the U.S. have a history of presenting the women who have chosen to keep their babies as emblematic of an anti-abortion stance without acknowledging that these women only had the ability to choose because abortion is a legal procedure in the United States. The absence of free will invalidates the argument that a conscious choice has been made.

Meanwhile, if Focus on the Family had chosen to highlight the story of a woman who had indeed chosen motherhood, would the current opposition to this advertisement still exist?

Finish reading here.

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