Super Bowl Showdown: College Quarterback To Star In Controversial Abortion Ad

In 1987, doctors in the Philippines advised Pam Tebow that carrying her fifth child to term would endanger her life. She chose to have that child, a son she named Tim. Now, she's advocating that others don't share her freedoms.

Both Pam and Tim, now a quarterback with the Florida Gators, are teaming up with Focus on the Family to create a "pro-life" ad to air during the Super Bowl.

The Tebows are in the news due to Tim Tebow's status as a Heisman trophy winning college football star, as well as a hotly anticipated entrant to the NFL. Tebow's interview with Sports Illustrated on his pro-life stance reveals a very straightforward framing of belief:

"That's always going to be a part of who I am, and I won't try to hide it,'' Tebow told me from Nashville, where he was working out with Bratkowski, the former Packer quarterback and longtime NFL assistant coach. "A team that doesn't want that shouldn't take me. Pro-life is very important to me. My mother listened to God late in her pregnancy, and if she had listened to others and terminated me, obviously I wouldn't be here. If others don't have the same belief, it's OK. I understand. But I hope they respect that at least I have the courage to stand up for what I believe in.''

Tebow's beliefs came directly from his experience. What both Tebows appear to miss in their passionate pro-life advocacy is that it was always Pam Tebow's choice as to what to do with her pregnancy: though doctors advised her to terminate it, they couldn't force her to do so. The Tebows are now taking the stance that the only permissible option is to not terminate pregnancies, effectively denying other women the choice that Pam Tebow herself was able to exercise.

One of the major points of contention in this debate is over representation - is there really a problem with airing a pro-life campaign ad during the Super Bowl? Kevin Mack over at True/Slant thinks that NOW, the Women's Media Center, and other women's advocacy groups protesting CBS's decision are "self righteous soapboxers", afraid to have a conversation on abortion:

It appears we might be dodging an opportunity. Sadly, the U.S. apparently cannot have a civil discussion regarding a touchy subject. Pathetically, the U.S. apparently prefers brain-numbing unthink to demanding conversation. Allegedly, the Super Bowl is an event "designed to bring America together" (must have missed that … I thought it was an indulgent declaration of U.S. extravagance. And PS: it probably won't bring Indy and New Orleans together).

Sports HAVE broached controversy before. Jesse Owens flipped the bird to Adolf Hitler at the ‘36 Olympics. Jackie Robinson stuck it to racists. Ditto Billy Jean King and the chauvinists, which would make a fantastic name for a rock band.

I realize those are somewhat clumsy analogies. How about Muhammad Ali breaking the law and protesting Vietnam? How about the Black Power demonstration at the ‘68 Olympics? I bet those were a little divisive.

All these things are true, but Mack is sort of missing the point. All of his examples involve athletes who were personally protesting policies they found abhorrent in the context of their performance. None of these athletes were recording ads or lending their name to organizations with a known homophobic and misogynist agenda.

Secondly, Mack is pretending that the controversy doesn't point to a very real issue - one of equal representation. Can CBS guarantee pro-life and pro-tolerance groups get the same kind of airtime?

As SF Gate reports, all groups may not have a fair chance at airing their ads on the network, which can create sticky situations when dealing with controversial issues:

All the national networks, including CBS, have policies that rule out the broadcast of certain types of contentious advocacy ads. In 2004, CBS cited such a policy in rejecting an ad by the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ highlighting the UCC's welcoming stance toward gays and others who might feel shunned by more conservative churches.

CBS was criticized for rejecting that ad - and perhaps might have worried about comparable criticism from conservatives if it had rejected an ad featuring such a charismatic and well-known figure as Tebow.

CBS noted that it had run some advocacy ads in recent months, including spots taking conflicting sides in the debate of a national health care overhaul.

The Women's Media Center goes into even more detail with its protest campaign, noting in a letter to CBS:

CBS has a well-documented history of prohibiting advocacy ads it deems controversial, rejecting ads from organizations such as PETA, MoveOn.org, United Church of Christ, and even ones that carry only an "implicit" endorsement for a side in a public debate. Last year, NBC made the prudent decision to not air anti-choice messages during the Super Bowl. CBS executives have indicated in the past that they would not air Super Bowl ads where "substantial elements of the community (are) in opposition to one another." Abortion is a controversial issue and anti-abortion vitriol has resulted in escalated violence against reproductive health service providers and their patients, including the murder of Dr. George Tiller during Sunday morning service at his church. We sincerely hope you do not want CBS associated with this brand of un-American hate.

Focus on the Family has waged war on non-traditional families, tried its hand at race baiting during the 2008 election, and is now attempting to use the Super Bowl to further ramp up the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding reproductive rights. By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will alienate viewers and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers. The decision to air this ad would be ethically, economically and politically disastrous for CBS. The content of this ad endangers women's health, uses sports to divide rather than to unite, and promotes an organization that opposes the equality of Americans based on gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and reproductive freedom. Focus on the Family's ad is surrealistic in its argument that a woman who chooses not to have a child may be depriving the Super Bowl of a football player. It uses one family's story to dictate morality to the American public, and encourages young women to disregard medical advice, putting their lives at risk.

A one sided advertisement is not a conversation.

The alliance with Focus on the Family is another source of concern. A Christian Evangelical group, Focus on the Family drinks heavily from the well of misogyny and homophobia in the name of religion. What do they stand for?

Seems pretty controversial to me. So why is CBS allowing this commercial to air? Is the network changing its previous tune on controversial content due to declining advertising revenue, or is there something else at play?

Tim Tebow preps for the first big week of his pro career. [Sports Illustrated]
CBS Urged To Scrap Tim Tebow Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Commercial [True/Slant]
CBS urged to scrap Super Bowl ad with Tebow, mom [SF Gate]
Stop Anti-Choice Super Bowl Ad [WMC]
Can Homosexuality Be Treated and Prevented? [Focus on the Family]
What Does the Research Show about Homosexuality? [Focus on the Family]
Their God-Given Design [Focus on the Family]
Abortion's Lies [Focus on the Family]
Super Bowl takes U.S. pulse in seconds [LA Times]