UPDATED ACTION LINKS: Coalition of Women’s Groups Calls for Action on CBS Advertisement

Jodi Jacobson

A coalition of women's groups is calling on CBS to immediately pull an anti-choice advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family now set to air during Super Bowl XLIV. 

A coalition of women’s groups is calling on CBS to immediately pull an anti-choice advertisement sponsored by Focus on the Family now set to air during Super Bowl XLIV.  Members of the coalition have sent a letter to CBS protesting the ad, launched a media outreach campaign, and are encouraging supporters to join their efforts through the use of numerous online advocacy strategies (links provided below).

The ad, which features Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother Pam, is, according to Focus on the Family, intended to "celebrate life and celebrate families." 

Yes…a certain kind of family and a certain kind of life…that of the Christian fundamentalist.  Focus on the Family is anti-choice (against contraception, against comprehensive sex education, and against a
woman’s right to choose to end an unintended pregnancy), and against
marriage equality, among other things.  It is expected that the ad for the Super Bowl will
advocate these positions, whether implicitly or explicitly. It appears that Focus on the Family is also gambling $2.5 million in the hopes the ad will drive donors to its website to replenish its rapidly dwindling coffers.

Tim Tebow is well-known for his Christian fundamentalist religious fervor, most-often displayed for football audiences via the biblical passages he wears in his eye black and by his frequent public discussions on the same. Pam Tebow made the decision not to terminate her pregnancy and to assume the risks involved in continuing it when, on a mission to the Philippines while pregnant with Tim and with a serious infection, she was advised by her physician to consider doing so. 

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Pro-choice and women’s rights groups object to the ad for a range of reasons, not least of which is the sudden reversal by CBS–which has rejected numerous ads by progressive organizations–of its own stated rules banning "advocacy" ads.

"CBS has a well-documented history
of prohibiting advocacy ads it deems controversial, rejecting ads from
organizations such as PETA, MoveOn.org, United Church of Christ, and even ones
that carry only an “implicit” endorsement for a side in a public debate," states a press statement jointly released by the coalition.

year, NBC made the prudent decision to not air anti-choice messages during the
Super Bowl. CBS executives have indicated in the past that they would not air
Super Bowl ads where “substantial elements of the community (are) in opposition
to one another.”

Moreover, notes the release, "Focus on the Family is an
organization well-known for opposing the equality of Americans based on gender,
sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and reproductive freedom."

This ad uses
one story to subtly dictate morality to the American public, and encourages
women to disregard medical advice, potentially putting their lives at risk. Abortion
is a controversial issue and anti-abortion vitriol has resulted in escalated
violence against reproductive health service providers and their patients.

“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 regardless of background,
faith, ideology or political affiliation,” says Jehmu Greene, President of the
Women’s Media Center.

The ad, notes the coalition press release, "goes against the
approximately 70 percent majority American view that reproductive decisions
should be left up to a woman and her physician; against the decision by the
U.S. Supreme Court that such decisions are protected by a constitutionally
guaranteed right to privacy; and against the health needs of the 1 in 3
American women who will need an abortion at sometime in her life."

A letter signed by members of the coalition and sent to CBS executives, included these and other points.

"As united organizations dedicated to reproductive rights, tolerance,
and social justice," the letter states, "we urge you to immediately cancel this ad and refuse any
other advertisement promoting Focus on the Family’s agenda."

Focus on the Family
has waged war on non-traditional families, tried its hand at race baiting
during the 2008 election, and is now attempting to use the Super Bowl to
further ramp up the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding reproductive rights. By
offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an
anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself
with a political stance that will alienate viewers and discourage consumers
from supporting its shows and advertisers. The decision to air this ad would be
ethically, economically and politically disastrous for CBS. The content of this
ad endangers women’s health, uses sports to divide rather than to unite, and
promotes an organization that opposes the equality of Americans based on
gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and reproductive freedom. Focus
on the Family’s ad is surrealistic in its argument that a woman who chooses not
to have a child may be depriving the Super Bowl of a football player. It 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.

Though women
comprise only 9 percent of CBS’s board, the letter notes, "they are a key constituency for the CBS
network and 40 percent of Super Bowl viewers."

If you contradict your policy and air
this ad, you will be throwing these women under the bus. American values of
privacy and freedom should be respected, not undermined during the Super Bowl.
The last thing Americans need is CBS or its advertisers telling us how and when
to have a family. CBS must take action now, by cancelling the airing of Focus
on the Family’s ad.

Signatories to the letter and press release as of this writing included: Abortion Access Project, ACCESS/Women’s Health Rights Coalition, Women,
Action & the Media, Advocates for Youth, Alternet, By Any Media Necessary, California
Council of Churches IMPACT, CAMI project, Choice USA, Civil Liberties and
Public Policy (CLPP)/Hampshire College, Equality Now, Feminist Majority
Foundation (FMF), Feminist Press, HollabackNYC, Ibis Reproductive Health, Law Students for Reproductive
Justice, MAMAPALOOZA!, Media Equity Collaborative, Medical Students for Choice!,
Ms. Foundation, New Prospect Family Praise and Worship Center, National
Organization for Women (NOW), NOW-NYC, OpEd Project, Physicians for
Reproductive Choice and Health, Religious Institute, Rewire, Sisterhood
is Global, Inc, The White House Project, Third Wave Foundation, Women, Action
& the Media (WAM!), Women In Media & News, and Women’s Information Network


Those interested can take action through the following petition campaigns:

Women’s Media Campaign

Change.org and United Church of Christ


Feminist Majority Foundation

We will continue to update these actions here. 

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