Why an Anti-Abortion Message at the Super Bowl?

Lots of people are outraged that CBS is allowing Focus on the Family to buy 30 seconds of airtime on the Super Bowl this Sunday to air an anti-abortion message.  It is outrageous that CBS, the mainstream network of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, who would likely have been horrified to see CBS selling religion, is taking the ad.  Is CBS becoming FOX?

Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow with Bible verse on his face worn during football games

From media reports, the ad tells the story of Tim Tebow’s mother, Pam, who, as a Christian missionary in the Philippines in 1987, rejected medical advice to terminate her fifth pregnancy because of a placental abruption caused by medication for a brief illness.   This could have killed her, but she “chose life” and Tim turned out to be a star college football quarterback who wears Bible verses on his face during games.  (I didn’t make this up.)

I’m not saying the Super Bowl is some hallowed institution that should never change.  It’s a quintessential American entertainment event, with all the dangers that implies, projected to the world. Jiggling cheerleaders, beer, car and National Guard commercials combined with the pervasive machismo of the NFL is part of what this country is, and the American media is skilled at promoting all that.

But CBS says “politics” doesn’t have a place at the Super Bowl.  In 2004, Moveon.org tried to buy a Super Bowl ad criticizing George Bush.  No deal then.  Lina Thorne brought together the network’s double standard:

“CBS’s former policy extended even to an ad from the United Church of Christ, which tried to buy airtime for an ad arguing gay people should be welcome in church in 2005. CBS has also turned down ads from PETA and Moveon.

Then, why suddenly is an overtly religious organization with an openly anti-gay, anti-abortion agenda buying into Super Bowl coverage?  What are they gaining with it?  That’s what we should focus on.

I agree with a letter writer to Revolution newspaper who said the “fundamental point” of opposing the ad

should not be “equality” for every view or not allowing athletes to have a political voice.  The point is that what is being put forward with this ad is wrong and is a horror for women all around the world and it’s being run in the U.S., where a woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds and three women are killed every day by possessive lovers and abusive husbands. Plain and simple, this ad is a continuation of the oppression and hatred of women that gets played out every minute in this country and throughout the world.  This ad is for all those who support the cold-blooded, calculated murder of abortion doctor George Tiller.  Fuck this ad and anyone who has anything to do with it!  We should drown this ad out with our demand for “Abortion on Demand Without Apology!”

Erin Matson, Vice President for Action of the National Organization for Women tied in the murderous anti-abortion activities of Focus on the Family in Scott Roeder, Focus on the Family and the Super Bowl:wrote

As far as its view on ending abortion rights is concerned, Focus on the Family is almost as extreme as it gets: going beyond legal strategies to endorse, even encourage, its followers to break the law in order to shut down women’s health clinics that offer abortion.

Sunsara Taylor on Youtube today says, “women are not lesser beings, breeders, or objects created for the pleasure of men, we are thinking beings.  The ideas on women from Focus on the Family have no place in our society.”

Sunsara Taylor on Focus on the Family ad on CBS

Dave Zirin, in the NY Daily News today goes into who Focus on the Family is

Focus on the Family’s guru is the infamous and recently retired James Dobson. Dobson is a frightening fellow, choosing the second night of Passover last year to say, “The biggest Holocaust in world history came out of the Supreme Court” with Roe vs. Wade. Dobson’s other pet project, the Family Research Council, has connections to white supremacist organizations like the Council of Conservative Citizens. In 1996, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list.

Zirin also nailed the contradiction, quoted in Alternet Sunday

“Super Bowl ads are routinely refused because they fall under the heading of ‘advocacy ads.’ (The rules are very clear on this: only beer, cars and the U.S. armed forces — all wrapped in a ribbon of sexism — can be advocated during the Super Bowl.) And yet Focus on the Family gets the ultimate platform to bash abortion rights. The United Church of Christ was rejected for an ad showing the church welcoming a gay couple with open arms. Other ads by PETA and MoveOn were shown the door. But Focus on the Family and its Trojan Horse of right-wing evangelicalism, Tim Tebow, get a pass.”

Focus on the Family says the ad is “an inspiring story of personal courage” of a “woman who risked her life for her baby.”

Abortion was illegal in the Philippines in 1987, meaning that Pam actually had no choice than to carry the fetus to term, unless her doctor argued that the pregnancy could have killed her.  Perhaps the doctors were ready to say that.  Pam’s writings indicate that she had prayed for another child, and would not have considered an abortion.  Her choice, to the extent that she had one.

But Focus on the Family works to make sure that no woman has any choice other than being forced into motherhood in that situation.  William Saletan, The Invisible Dead; The grisly truth about the Super Bowl abortion ad writes on Slate.com about what that choice often means:

Pam’s story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it’s misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn’t end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead.

Being dead is just the first problem with dying in pregnancy. Another problem is that the fetus you were trying to save dies with you. A third problem is that your existing kids lose their mother. A fourth problem is that if you had aborted the pregnancy, you might have gotten pregnant again and brought a new baby into the world, but now you can’t. And now the Tebows have exposed a fifth problem: You can’t make a TV ad.


The ad implies that one woman’s choice is what every woman should do.  Wrong, but even so, the ad was not purchased by Tim Tebow his mom to give their personal story.  It was purchased, produced and promoted as part of a whole package delivered from a huge organization whose mission is to shape U.S. society as a “Bible-based,” “Christ-centered” society.  Meaning a theocracy.  Their theocracy, with their interpretation of what the Bible says.

And you really won’t have that much to say about it, if they have their way. Abortion will be outlawed in all circumstances.

Read Amanda Marcotte’s humorous and real “Let’s Read 101 Reasons Not to Have an Abortion” today on RH Reality Check.

Come out and protest at CBS Television headquarters Thursday February 4.  Bring your own sign for what “C B S” stands for.

“Christian Broadcasting Syndicate?” “Cancel Sexist Broadcasting”? “Complete B– S–?” Be creative!

World Can’t Wait is holding a protest Thursday February 4
Noon at CBS Headquarters, 52nd Street & 6th Avenue NYC.
Call World Can’t Wait (866) 973-4463 for more info.

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  1. #1 by Lina on February 2, 2010 - 2:37 pm

    Amanda Marcotte was also really good on last week’s Michael Slate show (a weekly radio program on KPFK). You can listen to it here:

  2. #2 by Kitty Lebens on February 2, 2010 - 5:23 pm

    Once again, as per Gloria Steinem, if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrement. In the same vein, Viagra is covered by insurance but birth control isn’t! – Is it REALLY 2010? And CBS – am I dreaming??

  3. #3 by Debra on February 4, 2010 - 10:36 am

    That’s right, Kitty. Abortion has everything to do with whether women will be oppressed or not. Controlling our own reproduction and not being enslaved by it is key to changing a situation where women have been dominated by men for milennia.

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