Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Focus On the Family's Offensive Superbowl Ad

You've probably heard that Focus on the Family has bought airtime during the Superbowl this weekend to air a commercial featuring University of Florida Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mom Pam Tebow talking about how Mrs. Tebow chose not to abort her pregnancy in 1987.

According to the stories surrounding the ad, Mrs. Tebow became severly ill during a missionary trip to the Philippines in 1987 and doctors advised her to abort her pregnancy, but she chose not to do so. And, of course, it was the right decision because look at what she would have given up . . . a 2-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winner who will go on to do who knows what in the NFL. Yes, God blessed Mrs. Tebow for making the right choice.

CBS is happily running the obviously slanted ad because it has evidently changed its policy about not airing advocacy ads during the Superbowl. As expected, pro-choice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood are up in arms and want CBS to reject this ad. Petitions have been widely circulated via email, Twitter, and Facebook. Grannies in South Florida have created a YouTube video opposing CBS and telling us exactly what they think CBS stands for (NSFW). I'm sure boycotts are planned.

Personally, I find this ad offensive. But not for the reason you might think. I don't find it offensive because it espouses a viewpoint I don't share; although to be sure, I find Focus on the Family's decidedly anti-choice, anti-sex ed, anti-birth control, and homophobic agenda highly offensive. In fact, I don't even think CBS should reject it because it's an advocacy ad. I find it offensive because it Focus on the Family and Mrs. Tebow are quite possibly lying.

If, as she's long held, Mrs. Tebow was actually in the Phillipines when she became ill (and there's no reason to believe that's untrue since her son was, in fact, born there), then it's difficult to believe that any doctor recommended that she abort her pregnancy because abortion had been illegal for any reason whatsoever in the Phillipines since 1930. In fact, Articles 256, 258, and 259 specifically require "imprisonment for the woman who undergoes the abortion, as well as for any person who assists in the procedure, even if they be the woman's parents, a physician or midwife." Certainly, as the New York Times reported in 2005, there's a huge network for obtaining abortions and tonics that will induce abortion, but it seems to be highly unregulated, illegal, and causes many women to die. That doesn't surprise me at all. But given the huge influence of the Catholic Church and the Phillipine laws, are we really to believe that any reputable doctor in the Phillipines would risk his career by recommending a woman break the law? I, for one, find that difficult to believe.

That said, I actually think it's okay for CBS to run an advocacy ad. To refuse to air an ad just because it's controversial is a slippery slope and I worry about how it would reek of censorship and be anti-First Amendment. If CBS refuses to air the ad just because it's anti-choice and millions of women are offended, what's the next thing that gets censored? Will it be something that I believe in? Probably. In order to protect the freedom of speech we all hold so dear, it's sometimes necessary to let people say offensive things.

What I wish would happen is that NARAL or Planned Parenthood would buy ad time disputing the facts of the ad. I doubt Focus on the Family is going to tell the millions of people watching the Superbowl that had Mrs. Tebow gotten an abortion in the Phillipines, she and her doctor (and maybe even her husband) would have gone to prison. But why isn't anyone else?

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