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Let’s Face It: Abortion Is a Hard Sell February 20, 2010

Posted by Dindy in abortion, Family Values, health, Religious Right, Right wing, Television.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Let me start this blog with a disclaimer: I strongly support the right of all women to have access to safe and legal abortion. I consider myself to be a feminist, and I abhor almost everything Focus on the Family stands for. However,  my personal opinion is the Women’s Media Center, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups did more harm than good with their protest against a Super Bowl ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother. Without apparently having viewed the ad in advance, Jemhu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, said:

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year–an event designed to bring Americans together.”

The protest letter from the Women’s Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad because of the sponsor, Focus on the Family:

“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 damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.”

NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson, in a blog on their website shrilled:

“Make no mistake about this ad: it’s offensive to women. Yes, it features Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, who had been advised to have an abortion after a serious illness. Standing alone, it sends the message that all women who give birth are heroes; it sends a message that abortion is always a mistake; and it is insulting to the one in three women in this country who have abortions.”

Well I saw the ad, and I sure didn’t see any of those things. The truth is, if I hadn’t been aware of the furor ahead of time, I wouldn’t have realized it was an anti-abortion ad. The word abortion is never mentioned. Pam Tebow talks about Tim being her miracle baby and says his birth was difficult. She says that she almost lost him several times and added, “With all our family’s been through, we have to be tough.” Tim then comes on and tackles her and she scolds him. “Timmy, I’m trying to tell our story here.” A message comes on the screen telling people to go to the Focus on the Family website for more about the Tim Tebow story, and  Tim asks, “You still worry about me, Mom?” She replies, “Well yeah. You’re not nearly as tough as I am.” The interplay between Tim and his mother is rather sweet. My guess is that the dreaded, so-called anti-abortion message skipped over the heads of most people watching unless they already knew about it.

By protesting so heavily against the ad, the women’s groups only came across as shrill and as seeming to be against the very things they claim to support: freedom of speech and freedom of choice. The posts on Now’s Blog for Equality in which they screeched against the ad pretty much bear this out. One comment said:

“This woman chose life. Why would you be against that? She had the right to make her own personal choice, a choice which opposed the advice of doctors. Isn’t that a success story, that a woman had the right to choose? By your outcry, you send the message that abortion is the only choice you support. Please, don’t do this, it hurts the cause.”

A big problem with the pro-choice movement is that abortion is a hard sell. The anti-abortion groups can show inspirational messages such as the Tim Tebow spot; they can show cute babies and children frolicking, they can plaster billboards with a chubby cheeked toddler saying, “My mother chose life,” and there’s not a real good way to argue against that. The pro-choice people can’t exactly show a picture of a child in a wheelchair with the counter message of, “my mother didn’t have the choice to abort me,” now can they?

Let’s face it folks. Abortion is NOT a good thing. We want less of them. Not more. However the message that came through was that these groups only support abortion and that they are against choice. What the pro-choice groups really need to get across is that NOBODY likes abortion. Presumably NOW doesn’t like it. Ditto the Feminist Majority.  They could have used this ad as a stepping point to show what they do support. They could have said something like,

“Pam Tebow had a choice. We support that. We also support universal access to quality medical care such as what Pam Tebow evidently had. We support easy access to birth control and comprehensive sex education. We support programs that give girls and young women the skills they need not to be victims, not to give in to pressure from their boyfriends to have sex and how to protect themselves against rape and incest. We support programs that give all women access to prenatal care and programs that fight against alcohol abuse and drug addiction in women of child-bearing age as these are things that can affect the health of unborn children. We support programs that teach boys about responsibility so they can learn how to be fathers and not just sperm donors, and we support programs that ensure that no child has to go to bed with an empty stomach.

“We support programs that will move us forward to a day when no woman needs to choose abortion. But we are not there yet and until that day comes, we support safe and legal abortion. We support women. We support families. We support choice.”

The women’s groups had a great opportunity with the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad, and they blew it. Rather than attracting anyone to their cause, they alienated a whole bunch of people and ensured that others who probably wouldn’t have even noticed the ad amidst all the other ads on Super Bowl Sunday paid a great deal of attention to it. They enabled Focus on the Family to take the high road, and that is the last place that this  group deserves to be.

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