A brand-new controversy has sprung up nationwide surrounding former University of Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow and a Focus On The Family ad slated and accepted to run during CBS’ airing of the Super Bowl Feb. 7.
In the ad, the story is told of Tebow’s mother, then a missionary in the Philippines who had fallen ill while pregnant with Tim, choosing to carry him to term despite warnings from a doctor that the medically safer choice would have been to have an abortion. The message, obviously, is that she made the right decision in bringing to life a star athlete with great prospects for a professional future either in football or some other venue.
Naturally, because the ad involves abortion and religion it couldn’t be any more controversial. ABC News reports that the University of Florida campus is awash with opponents of Focus On The Family’s message speaking out against Tebow’s having done the ad…
Karen Middlekauff, a UF law student and the president of Outlaw, an organization for College of Law LGBT students, said she believes that Tebow is still a representative of UF, and he has chosen to represent a viewpoint that shouldn’t be associated with the university.
“Focus on the Family is a very well-known group for speaking out against LGBT issues,” she said. “A lot of people know that.”
The commercial is also highlights the strength of Tebow’s religious beliefs, something the general public may not be aware of, she said.
“The UF community itself knows that he is very religious and he’s done a lot of humanitarian work,” Middlekauff said. “I don’t know if the public knows that. They’ll know after this.”
AC Stokes, the UF director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said Tebow is probably aware that he is being used for a political purpose and that he will now be associated with Focus on the Family’s viewpoints.
“I got a call from an alumnus that was pretty outraged by the fact that Tim Tebow was going to be in this commercial,” Stokes said.
Meanwhile, Reuters has a piece detailing the uproar in the pro-abortion and feminist movement over CBS’ decision to air the ad. One such organization, the Women’s Media Center, fired off a letter to CBS demanding that “you…immediately cancel this ad and refuse any other advertisement promoting Focus on the Family’s agenda.”
“It (the ad) 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,” said the letter sent to CBS by the Women’s Media Center.
The Women’s Media Center’s president, a woman named Jehmu Greene, did a spot on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night…
Several points should be made here.
First, as someone who both tends to a libertarian viewpoint but nevertheless sees abortion as a real social problem with respect to its negative effects on birth rates and demographics wherever it’s widely practiced, not to mention the moral problems abortion carries with it, the Tebow ad represents an approach one can’t help but appreciate. The critics of Focus On The Family’s very existence notwithstanding, this ad carries a positive message that the pro-life community needs to adhere to.
By all accounts so far the ad doesn’t rail against the legality of abortion, it doesn’t menace the audience with fetuses in jars like Woody Jenkins used to in the state legislature and it doesn’t take shots at anyone for choosing to have an abortion. All it does is tell a story of a mother who made the choice to carry a challenging pregnancy to term and reaped a great reward for doing so. If you can’t see an inspirational message in such an ad, and if you actually think it’s controversial, then you’ve allowed yourself to become so doctrinaire and hard-hearted that you’re going to have a hard time persuading the open-minded of the correctness of your position.
If the pro-life community as a whole would follow the lead of this message, the way is laid out for a true consensus on abortion. Efforts to make it illegal encourage opposition. Efforts to persuade people not to choose abortion regardless of its legality can reach across political divides. Dry up the market for abortions because Americans find them unpleasant and undesirable due to the country’s moral attitudes, and you’ve won the battle regardless of what the lawyers and legislators say.
The pro-life movement hasn’t done a particularly good job of fighting this battle on a cultural level. The Tebow ad might signal a change in tactics; if it does, it’s a signal that they’ve finally figured things out: Don’t tell people what they can’t do; they’ll fight you. Attempt to cultivate their agreement without coercion and it’s much harder to disagree.
The second takeaway from the Tebow ad relates to the first. The reaction of the pro-abortion Left and the gay community on Florida’s campus shows the effectiveness of the ad before it’s even shown. Greene and her organization look like complete imbeciles for opposing the ad; in her O’Reilly appearance she was actually put in a position of answering the question whether she opposed the idea that Tim Tebow was born. That’s not a sound rhetorical footing. Greene may not care for Focus On The Family, but if the ad doesn’t advocate that abortion be illegal, she doesn’t have much of an argument against it from the standpoint of a “pro-choice” view.
The other problem Greene and the other opponents have arises from stupid statements they’ve made in attacking the messenger. Because the ad comes from Focus On The Family, they argue, there must be at least a hidden message that abortions should be banned – and therefore CBS should bar the ad from its telecast.
In other words, shut up.
Because Greene and her group are political enemies of Focus On The Family, she seems to think she’s empowered to censor any message her opponent may have on the basis that she finds them disagreeable as a whole.
That’s not persuasive, and she’s likely going to lose the argument badly here. She lost badly on O’Reilly, she’s created a larger sensation than would ever have come about had she not become involved and she’s damaging her cause.
A simple statement that the Women’s Media Center applauds Pam Tebow’s choice to carry a child to term, but would hope Focus On The Family respects the choices of other women in similar and/or different circumstances to take the actions they feel to be correct would have gone a long way toward holding high ground. Instead, they come off looking like their real aim is to promote abortions, not freedom.
Focus On The Family wins this round. If the controversy serves to change the debate on the abortion issue to a more civilized and rational level, America may win as well.