Super Sunday Ethics: Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Superbowl Ad

N.F.L. quarterback Tim Tebow is in the middle of a fierce culture wars controvesy because he agreed to let his life story be the centerpiece of a Super Bowl ad created by Focus on the Family, the evangelical group founded by James Dobson. has bought air time during the Super Bowl. The ad features Tebow and his mother relating how she rejected the advice of doctors when urged her to have an abortion. She had the baby, and he grew up to be a football star. A touchdown for the anti-abortion team.

Some women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women, are petitioning  CBS not to air the ad during next month’s Super Bowl, always one of the most-watched television events of the year. CBS has rejected issue-oriented ads in the past, but says that it changed its policy. In a letter to CBS, The Women’s Media Center and over thirty other pro-abortion and women’s advocacy groups urged the network  “to immediately cancel this ad and refuse any other advertisement promoting Focus on the Family’s agenda.”

“We are calling on CBS to stick to their policy of not airing controversial advocacy ads … and this is clearly a controversial ad,” Jehmu Greene, the president of the Women’s Media Center, told Reuters.

Nobody has seen the Tebow ad but CBS and Focus on the Family, but the complaints of the womens’ groups are difficult to justify if, as CBS has represented, the ad makes no explicit policy or ideological declaration. Tebow himself is an outspoken Christian, but he will not be advocating a religious position in the spot.

What’s going on here? If the story is told in an honest and straightforward fashion, it is sure to encourage thought and discussion regarding the ethics of abortion, and that can only be a good thing. It seems harsh to say so, but the only reason to object to the ad is the desire of pro-abortion advocates to treat the issue as settled and closed to further debate. Roe v.Wade says abortion is a Constitutional right, and that’s that. However, the court decision did not and cannot settle the ethical issue, which every responsible woman who makes a choice regarding abortion has an obligation to consider carefully. Is there something sinister about reminding women that today’s unwanted fetus might be tomorrow’s football hero if given the chance to live? I would have to wonder about the values of anyone who thought so. A decision to abort should not be regarded as a triumph for that “side”: Tim Tebow’s story should be as inspiring and gratifying to a pro-choice advocate as it is to anyone else.

“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,” says the letter sent to CBS. If the ad is as it has been described, then this is nonsense. Raising an argument for not having an abortion just because a doctor recommends it is not “dictating” anything, nor is the issue only a moral one. This is the prize cheap shot when anyone suggests that  particular conduct may be wrong:”How dare you dictate your morality to anyone else?” We live in  a society, and societies have an obligation to think about, and often to make rules about what is right. This requires speaking up and listening to what other people think. It is necessary and responsible conduct, not “dictating morality.”

The weakest argument against the ad might this howler, which Jehmu Greene came up with in her statement to the news media:

“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.”

Oh, brother. How dare CBS interrupt a parade of dancing chimps, animated beer bottles and Cedric the Entertainer with  something thought-provoking and substantive!

Forgive me for collapsing in derisive laughter, but honestly: living rooms full of drunken fans, screaming for their team to pulverize the bones and bruise the brains of the opposing team’s players, are such hallowed spaces that it is wrong to momentarily invade them with the story of how one mother is glad she didn’t abort her son? Since when were American women so solicitous of the purity of sports rituals? Anything that sparks a single brain cell to spark anywhere in America during a Super Bowl is progress.

Pro-abortion advocates are worried, I believe, that a simple, unvarnished telling of an inspiring and true story involving a football celebrity might cause some impressionable boys and girls watching the Super Bowl with their parents to think about the ethics of abortion. Perhaps the groups should be worried. Trying to prevent the story from being told, however, is neither honorable, fair, or American. What is American is encouraging an open, vigorous debate about important issues, and there is no issue more important than abortion and its results, positive and negative, for women, the unborn, and the American culture. Yes, the Super Bowl brings Americans together, and it should bring them together to do what Americans do best: party, eat, drink, cheer, care and argue.

The critics are wrong: Tim Tebow, Focus on Family and CBS have made Super Sunday better than ever.

11 thoughts on “Super Sunday Ethics: Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Superbowl Ad

  1. Way to go! Nipple slips and the latest cutesy alcohol commercials are okay, but God forbid that anything of value or virtue be shown … to at least provide an alternative to the sleaze we’re subjected day in and day out by the media and special-interest groups! GREAT opportunity for debate.

    • Absolutely–and what is there to be afraid of? The issues raised by Tebow’s story create as much opportunity for Pro-Choice advocates to make their case as it does for their critics. Whenever anyone is reluctant to debate, one has to wonder if they think their arguments won’t bear up under scrutiny.

      • The way people act sometimes, makes it sound like they are Anti-Choice and the only choice is to have an abortion.

        I don’t mind outing myself. Here’s my position on the subject.

        I choose life. Others can choose what they want.

  2. Most of us like to put labels on things, including people’s positions on abortions.

    I have often heard people say that no one is pro-abortion, only pro-choice. The (negative) reaction to allowing someone to publicize a mother’s choice not to have an abortion tends to disprove that. So did the reaction to Ms. Palin’s choice not to have an abortion.

    Kudos to Mr. Tebow, his mother, and CBS.

    • Pro-Choice is a euphemism designed to hide the tough choices (ironically enough) that abortion policy must navigate, and dishonestly focuses on the word “choice” in a misleading fashion. There are many things women and men cannot “choose” to do, or in which the range of choices are limited by ethical considerations. The issue is abortion, and the positions on both sides should be stated in terms of abortion: I might vote for an honest politician who is “pro-abortion,” but never one who only says, “pro-choice.” The opposition to this ad is telling, and is much more damaging than anything in the ad itself could be.

  3. Jack: I’ve read plenty about Tim Tebow and this commercial mostly because I’m somewhat shocked that this group(s) is so against the airing of this ad (especially considering that they have never seen the commercial nor have they read the script). With that said, I fell that your analysis is the best that I’ve read on this topic. Right on the money. Well done!

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Super Sunday Ethics: Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Superbowl Ad « Ethics Alarms --

  5. That’s how I like to see an issue argued.

    Whenever someone discourages or opposes a non-ideological exposition of a moral issue, suspicion of both motive and rationality should be the rule, not the exception.

  6. Pingback: More Tebow Ad Ethics: Allred’s Complaint « Ethics Alarms

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