Friday, January 29, 2010

Focus On Family Anti-Abortion Ad Uses Premise With Unintended Message

From NPR:

For years, CBS and other networks banned "advocacy" commercials from airing during the Super Bowl. But CBS recently reversed its stance. A commercial that opposes abortion, featuring Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, is set to air in this year's big game. And some fans say they don't want to see these types of ads in the Super Bowl.[...]

Focus on the Family is paying for the 30-second spot. Ads during the game are selling for up to $3 million. The group's spokesman, Gary Schneeberger, says the ad is not political. "I can tell you there's nothing controversial about it, there's nothing political about it," Schneeberger says. "It is simply a very inspirational 30 seconds about celebrating life and celebrating families." [...]

CBS approved the Focus on the Family commercial before making a statement about their new policy on advocacy ads. As the controversy over the ad grew louder over the past few days, CBS issued the new policy. The broadcaster now says it will accept advocacy ads that are produced "reasonably."
The story of Timothy Tebow's birth from Wikipedia is:

While pregnant, Pam suffered a life-threatening infection with a pathogenic amoeba. Because of the drugs used to rouse her from a coma and to treat her dysentery, the fetus experienced a severe placental abruption. Doctors expected a stillbirth and recommended an abortion to protect her life.[1] She carried Timothy to term, and both survived.
The details of this story related to what the doctors said, and therefore the choices Timothy Tebow's family had to make have been called into question largely because abortion is illegal in the Phillipines (with no exceptions, not even for the mother's life) where the Tebow's lived and where Tim was born.

What isn't disputed is that this mother was ill and needed medical treatment while pregnant and they were relieved and gladdened to have a healthy baby. If there were risks to the mother's life and the baby's life, this family got lucky with the choices they made.

I'm glad for them at such a desirable outcome. Some people and some groups will deny it but other expectant mothers aren't so lucky in this situation. Some babies will be stillborn. Some expectant mothers will die or have their health permanently compromised. If those expectant mothers were given accurate information, an alternate choice and then freely declined that choice then their human rights were respected.

If this ad sets out to create the perception in Superbowl viewers that this outcome is what always happens when pregnant women make the choice to continue a pregnancy that's a deceptive and dangerous message. It's also a deceptive and dangerous message if there is any claim that this outcome was due to the family's faith. Other families have just as much faith and they get a very different outcome.

If all this ad does is celebrate families and life as is claimed then CBS and Focus on the Family should be fine with an ad which shows a series of happy, successful parents and children who overcame some difficulty which according to FOTF would not be political.

We could begin with a single mother and her decision to ignore abstinence only messages to have a child as a teenager and to ignore those who scorned her and pushed her to give up her child for adoption. She could show off her pro-football player son who created a foundation which helps single mothers and their children.

Then we could have 2 lesbian women talking about their decision to become a family complete with children, despite repeated death threats from "moral" people, which shows their children who are now all successful and helping with critical community needs.

Then we could have a young woman talking about needing and getting emergency contraception at the hospital after she was raped as a teenager by a boyfriend who told her a baby would keep her linked to him for the rest of her life. Her parents could tell how they prayed for their daughter's life and tell of the sorrow of another set of parents who witnessed their pregnant daughter shot to death by that same abuser.

Then we could have a mother who made the heartrending choice to have an abortion because not doing so would almost certainly end in her death. She could talk about choosing the welfare of her husband and the children she already gave birth to. Her family could talk about how much it means to still have this woman in their lives and how after a hysterectomy the parents adopted children from the foster care system who were considered irredeemable.

These all celebrate life and they all celebrate families, but they don't do this according to the narrow Focus on the Family narrative.

Also the celebration of life justification for this ad means that relating the stories of girls and women who were denied abortions and who died horrifically during pregnancy would not be reasonable. Since there is no life left to celebrate in these cases, they are not suitable for public broadcast. The public doesn't need to know about them when making decisions about laws related to reproduction.

A major flaw in the premise of this Tebow ad where a son's well being and accomplishments are positioned as evidence that what would have prevented that birth (in this case abortion) should be illegal is that this premise also could be used to support making abstinence until marriage programs illegal. Using this premise a single mother could relate how she was told to wait for marriage and if she had waited, look at the wonderful child who wouldn't be alive today.

The other major flaw in this premise is that taking the position of, "Look who wouldn't be alive if ..." is that it could be used to justify ignoring reproductive coercion and rape. Some people already take the position that it is God's will that some girls and women are raped and become pregnant from rape.

Sometimes so-called feel good messages contain messages which are the opposite of good and seek outcomes which are harmful to many.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:42 AM   1 comments links to this post


At January 31, 2010 9:39 AM, Blogger Le Femme said...

Thank you for spreading the word about this vicious, poisonous message to women that's being touted as a "family friendly message."

There is nothing family friendly about sacrificing a woman for the sake of passing the male's genes along. There is nothing family friendly about saying "if this woman made this choice, every women should make this choice." There is nothing family friendly about heroizing dangerous pregnancy as if the only bravery a woman can perform is squeezing out as many kids from her uterus as possible.

And this message certainly is political. Our reproductive rights are consistently under attack by right wing groups and left wing apathy (IMO). There is no way that this ad does NOT have political significance considering the Stupak amendments in the new health care reform as well.


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