Will the Real Pam Tebow Story Please Stand Up?

Robin Marty

Did Focus on the Family tease the mainstream media with a Tebow tale that was mostly fantasy?

Some
called it heartwarming, others inoffensive, and many just said, "So, that
was it?" For all of the frenzy that led up to the Focus on the Family Tim
Tebow ad, what aired was quite ambiguous. Simply a goofy moment and call to
action for those who want to learn more about the story to visit their website
and see "the whole story."

 

But
what exactly is the story?  The
story about the story itself is a very interesting saga. Maybe most interesting
for the fact that it doesn’t resemble the pre-commercial narrative fed to the
media at all.

All
of the news reports preceding the Super Bowl focused on how Pam Tebow would discuss
her struggle with the decision not to abort her son, despite doctors’ advice to
the contrary. Lifenews, the anti-abortion website of choice repeatedly pushed
that story, saying "The main ad during the Super Bowl reportedly will
share the Tebow birth story of how Tebow was on a mission
trip to the Philippines and, when she contracted amoebic dysentery for which
she reportedly took heavy medication was advised by her doctor to have an
abortion.  She claims her doctor suggested an abortion because the drugs
could “harm her baby."  We were also told how she had a placental
abruption, and once again she was encouraged to abort her fetus.

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It’s
easy to become confused.  Were
there several doctors suggesting an abortion?  One doctor?  A
doctor suggesting an abortion based on the possibility of fetal anomaly from
the medication?  Or a doctor simply
advising her as to possible outcomes, as we have suggested before?

Going
back to an in-depth profile of Tim Tebow in the Gainsville Sun in 2007, it would appear all of
this and more occurred, according to Pam Tebow:

Just
before her pregnancy, Pam fell into a coma after contracting amoebic dysentery,
a bacteria transmitted through contaminated drinking water. During her
recovery, she received a series of strong medications. And even though she
discontinued the regimen when she discovered the pregnancy, doctors told Pam
the fetus had been damaged.

Doctors
later told Pam that her placenta had detached from the uterine wall, a
condition known as placental abruption, which can deprive the fetus of oxygen
and nutrients. Doctors expected a stillbirth, Pam said, and they encouraged her
to terminate the pregnancy.

"They
thought I should have an abortion to save my life from the beginning all the
way through the seventh month," she recalled.

Pam
said her decision to sustain the pregnancy was a simple one – because of her
faith.

"We
were grieved," she said. "And so my husband just prayed that if the
Lord would give us a son, that he would let us raise him."

In
her seventh month of pregnancy, Pam traveled to the country’s capital, Manila,
where she received around-the-clock care from an American-trained physician.

For
the next two months, Pam – steadfastly praying for a healthy child – remained
on bed rest.

And
on her due date – Aug. 14, 1987 – Pam gave birth to Timothy Richard Tebow, who
she described as "skinny, but rather long." "We were concerned
at first because he was so malnourished, but he definitely made up for
it," she said, between laughs. Today Tim, now 20, stands at a solid
6’3" and 235 pounds.

It’s
a wonderful story of miraculous results, and a testimony of what can happen if
you don’t listen to the doctors and instead just carry a child to term. 
Despite all of the warnings from medical professionals, mother and child were
both perfect.

It
also is completely different than the story Pam Tebow tells on the Focus on the
Family
website.

Interviewed
by the president of Focus on the Family, Pam’s story begins simply: she is an
older, high-risk mother conceiving a child in an area without good medical
care. 

"I
conceived and we went to see the doctor in the town we lived in. She said he
wasn’t a baby at all, he was a mass of fetal tissue, and that I needed to abort
him immediately if I were going to save my life.  Said it was a
tumor.  We didn’t have to make a decision at that time.  We had made
it previously, we were determined to trust the Lord with the children He would
give us…

I
didn’t have any more medical care at that time or any time until we moved to
Manila, the capital of the Philippines until the end of my pregnancy." 

In
the Gainsville Sun, Tebow said "They thought I should have an abortion to
save my life from the beginning all the way through the seventh month,"
until she went to Manila.  But in her interview for the website, she
states she never saw a doctor after that first appointment until she went to
Manila much later in her pregnancy.

Why
would a doctor in the heavily Catholic Philippines where abortion is illegal
under any circumstances think she should have an abortion “from the
beginning?”  From the beginning of
what?  The sixth week?  The 12th week?  “In the beginning” of a pregnancy, the
developing fetus is in fact a “clump of fetal tissue.”  Most tests confirming fetal anomalies
are not available until the beginning of the second trimester and require
laboratory results.  Did this
doctor in the rural Philippines, sometimes referred to as “he” and sometimes
referred to as “she,” run high-technology tests solely for Pam Tebow?

Was
this before or after her coma, or before or after the medication for dysentery
that her doctor ostensibly told her would cause birth defects and require her
to abort?

"I
can remember one time when I had been given some medicine to take for amoeba,
and I had taken one pill.  I was reading with my oldest daughter the book
of Timothy, where we chose the name for our Timothy, and I just felt compelled
that I needed to go and read about the medicine and when I did I realized that
it said on the label ‘Could Cause Severe Birth Defects’ and so I threw it away
and had to deal with those physical issues as well."

So
she was in a coma and being cared for by whom?  In the coma did she take the one pill on her own?  Or was it administered only for her to
find out later?

Then there
was the placental abruption that Tebow stated caused doctors to tell her she
would have a stillbirth, and that caused them to recommend she abort the fetus
(and which, looking at the time line in the Gainsville Sun appears to have
happened before she went to Manila, when she now says she saw no doctors). In
her FoF interview, that medical problem appears not to have been diagnosed
until she gave birth.

"He
was delivered in a Manila hospital…and when the doctor delivered him…[Bob
Tebow takes over speaking]There was a great big clump of blood that came out
where the placenta was improperly attached basically for the whole 9 months
completely.  And so, you know, he’s a miracle baby."

Placental
abruption occurs generally in the third trimester.  You don’t “walk around” with placental abruption for nine
months.

Do
the differences in these many versions matter at this point?  

The
Tebows were sold by Focus on the Family to the American people as some sort of
“validation” for the pro-life movement.  In short the message is: Doctors
can be wrong, and just because your life may be in danger or your fetus may be
at risk, it is worth carrying the pregnancy to term on the chance that medical
professionals may be mistaken. To FoF, the Tebows are proof that an abortion is
never necessary for medical reasons.

But
the story doesn’t hold together with so many versions of this story told
by Pam Tebow.  And the story as
anti-abortion allegory isn’t as convincing if Tebow—who tells us in one version
she only sees a doctor at the very beginning and at the very end of her
pregnancy–isn’t repeatedly defying the doctors and isn’t facing a constant
risk to all involved. 

As Rewire columnist Amanda Marcotte puts it, "If you grow up or spend a lot of time around evangelicals, you’ll
realize they approach story-telling like stand-up comedians do, which
is to put a good story ahead of the literal truth. If a story
illustrates a larger concept they’re trying to get across, that seems
to be more important than getting the exact details right, especially
if the exact details distract from the moral they’re trying to get
across."

This
was a story fed to a media that loves conflict and drama.  A mother who
was possibly told at one point that her fetus wasn’t viable, and who then
avoided medical professionals until the end of her pregnancy makes a less
compelling story — and hurts your free media. 

The
real story is available, of course, but the majority of the people who will see
that one already agree with Focus on the Family’s abortion stance.  

 

Commentary Sexual Health

Don’t Forget the Boys: Pregnancy and STI Prevention Efforts Must Include Young Men Too

Martha Kempner

Though boys and young men are often an afterthought in discussions about reproductive and sexual health, two recent studies make the case that they are in need of such knowledge and that it may predict when and how they will parent.

It’s easy to understand why so many programs and resources to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) focus on cisgender young women: They are the ones who tend to get pregnant.

But we cannot forget that young boys and men also feel the consequences of early parenthood or an STI.

I was recently reminded of the need to include boys in sexual education (and our tendency not to) by two recent studies, both published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The first examined young men’s knowledge about emergency contraception. The second study found that early fatherhood as well as nonresident fatherhood (fathers who do not live with their children) can be predicted by asking about attitudes toward pregnancy, contraception, and risky sexual behavior. Taken together, the new research sends a powerful message about the cost of missed opportunities to educate boys.

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The first study was conducted at an adolescent medicine clinic in Aurora, Colorado. Young men ages 13 to 24 who visited the clinic between August and October 2014 were given a computerized survey about their sexual behavior, their attitudes toward pregnancy, and their knowledge of contraception. Most of the young men who took the survey (75 percent) had already been sexually active, and 84 percent felt it was important to prevent pregnancy. About two-thirds reported having spoken to a health-care provider about birth control other than condoms, and about three-quarters of sexually active respondents said they had spoken to their partner about birth control as well.

Yet, only 42 percent said that they knew anything about emergency contraception (EC), the only method of birth control that can be taken after intercourse. Though not meant to serve as long-term method of contraception, it can be very effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex. Advance knowledge of EC can help ensure that young people understand the importance of using the method as soon as possible and know where to find it.

Still, the researchers were positive about the results. Study co-author Dr. Paritosh Kaul, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the proportion of boys and young men who had heard about EC: “That’s two-fifths of the boys, and … we don’t talk to boys about emergency contraception that often. The boys are listening, and health-care providers need to talk to the boys.”

Even though I tend to be a glass half-empty kind of person, I like Dr. Kaul’s optimistic take on the study results. If health-care providers are broadly neglecting to talk to young men about EC, yet about 40 percent of the young men in this first study knew about it anyway, imagine how many might know if we made a concerted effort.

The study itself was too small to be generalizable (only 93 young men participated), but it had some other interesting findings. Young men who knew about EC were more likely to have discussed contraception with both their health-care providers and their partners. While this may be an indication of where they learned about EC in the first place, it also suggests that conversations about one aspect of sexual health can spur additional ones. This can only serve to make young people (both young men and their partners) better informed and better prepared.

Which brings us to our next study, in which researchers found that better-informed young men were less likely to become teen or nonresident fathers.

For this study, the research team wanted to determine whether young men’s knowledge and attitudes about sexual health during adolescence could predict their future role as a father. To do so, they used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (known as Add Health), which followed a nationally representative sample of young people for more than 20 years from adolescence into adulthood.

The researchers looked at data from 10,253 young men who had completed surveys about risky sexual behavior, attitudes toward pregnancy, and birth control self-efficacy in the first waves of Add Health, which began in 1994. The surveys asked young men to respond to statements such as: “If you had sexual intercourse, your friends would respect you more;” “It wouldn’t be all that bad if you got someone pregnant at this time in your life;” and “Using birth control interferes with sexual enjoyment.”

Researchers then looked at 2008 and 2009 data to see if these young men had become fathers, at what age this had occurred, and whether they were living with their children. Finally, they analyzed the data to determine if young men’s attitudes and beliefs during adolescence could have predicted their fatherhood status later in life.

After controlling for demographic variables, they found that young men who were less concerned about having risky sex during adolescence were 30 percent more likely to become nonresident fathers. Similarly, young men who felt it wouldn’t be so bad if they got a young woman pregnant had a 20 percent greater chance of becoming a nonresident father. In contrast, those young men who better understood how birth control works and how effective it can be were 28 percent less likely to become a nonresident father.9:45]

Though not all nonresident fathers’ children are the result of unplanned pregnancies, the risky sexual behavior scale has the most obvious connection to fatherhood in general—if you’re not averse to sexual risk, you may be more likely to cause an unintended pregnancy.

The other two findings, however, suggest that this risk doesn’t start with behavior. It starts with the attitudes and knowledge that shape that behavior. For example, the results of the birth control self-efficacy scale suggest that young people who think they are capable of preventing pregnancy with contraception are ultimately less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy.

This seems like good news to me. It shows that young men are primed for interventions such as a formal sexuality education program or, as the previous study suggested, talks with a health-care provider.

Such programs and discussion are much needed; comprehensive sexual education, when it’s available at all, often focuses on pregnancy and STI prevention for young women, who are frequently seen as bearing the burden of risky teen sexual behavior. To be fair, teen pregnancy prevention programs have always suffered for inadequate funding, not to mention decades of political battles that sent much of this funding to ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Researchers and organizations have been forced to limit their scope, which means that very few evidence-based pregnancy prevention interventions have been developed specifically for young men.

Acknowledging this deficit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Adolescent Health have recently begun funding organizations to design or research interventions for young men ages 15 to 24. They supported three five-year projects, including a Texas program that will help young men in juvenile justice facilities reflect on how gender norms influence intimate relationships, gender-based violence, substance abuse, STIs, and teen pregnancy.

The availability of this funding and the programs it is supporting are a great start. I hope this funding will solidify interest in targeting young men for prevention and provide insight into how best to do so—because we really can’t afford to forget about the boys.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Doesn’t Want Tubman on the $20, Cruz Holds Up Anti-Slavery Bill

Ally Boguhn

Speaking at a town hall event on Thursday, Donald Trump said that while Harriet Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

Donald Trump couldn’t get behind putting iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill this week, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is reportedly holding up an anti-slavery measure over abortion access.

Trump Upset Tubman Will Be On $20 Bill 

Trump wasn’t thrilled with news that Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.

Speaking at NBC’s TODAY town hall event on Thursday, Trump said that while Tubman is “fantastic,” portraying her on the $20 bill was just “pure political correctness.”

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“Andrew Jackson had a great history … [Jackson] had a history of tremendous success for the country,” Trump said when asked by host Matt Lauer to address the change. “Maybe we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill, or we do another bill. I don’t like seeing it.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Wednesday that Tubman would replace Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. An image of Jackson will remain on the back. 

Ben Carson, Trump’s former rival for the Republican nomination turned supporter, also thought it’d be best to put Tubman on the $2 bill. “I love Harriet Tubman,” Carson said Wednesday during an appearance on Fox Business Network’s Cavuto: Coast to Coast. “I love what she did, but we can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill.”

Carson said that Jackson “was a tremendous president.”

“I mean, Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt,” he told Cavuto.

Cruz Reportedly Holding up Anti-Slavery Bill Because of Abortion

Cruz is reportedly holding up a bipartisan bill to help end slavery over concerns that it could help fund abortion care.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act (EMSI), sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), would “help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe,” according to a press release announcing the bill.

The legislation would establish the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit organization to fund grants outside of the United States. Though it would be funded in part by the federal government, 80 percent of the $1.5 billion the organization would hope to have would come from the private sector and foreign governments.

Though it’s “Senate tradition to decline to say who has put such a hold on a bill,” TIME reports that “research suggests that it’s Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz of Texas, who is currently running for the GOP presidential nomination. The bill’s supporters say the Senators are holding the bill over a concern that some of the anti-slavery money might be used to pay for abortions.”

A Cruz spokesperson told the publication that while the senator supports the goals of the legislation, “he has some concerns with the EMSI bill, specifically whether it does enough to ensure that the foundation created by the bill would not be able to fund organizations that provide or support abortions.”

The Helms Amendment already ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

What Else We’re Reading

Anti-choice groups are gearing up for a showdown with Trump.

Cruz doubled down on his support of bathroom discrimination laws after Trump told NBC: “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”

The Boston Globe has a long read explaining how Trump’s time in the pageant business “foreshadows a reputation for sexism and misogyny that sticks with him nearly 25 years later, in his presidential bid, in which coarse descriptions of women and perceived sexist comments have left him with extraordinarily high unfavorable ratings among women.”

Cruz refused to meet with a delegation of Muslims on Muslim Advocacy Day.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign says that Clinton would be open to picking a woman as her running mate should she win the nomination. “We’ll start with a broad list [of potential vice presidential candidates] and then begin to narrow it,” Clinton spokesperson John Podesta told the Boston Globe. “But there is no question that there will be women on that list.”

CNN reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved nearly $40 million worth of airtime in states with key Senate races, including Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, in hopes of retaking the Senate majority.

The Huffington Post reports that Google Trends show that “Ted Cruz’s supporters share his weird fixation with soup.” Supporters of candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are more likely to run a Google search for “Vegan Passover recipes” or a recipe for guacamole, while Clinton’s supporters searched for recipes for meat pies and quinoa.

Ohio Republicans are sponsoring a bill that could jeopardize emergency voting extensions in the state. According to ThinkProgress:

If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.

CORRECTION: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify Sen. Ted Cruz’s reported actions on the anti-slavery bill.