Having just penned an article on abortion for the brilliant Jacques magazine, it's a topic I've been thinking about a lot recently. Soon, much of America will be joining me - as one of the most-watched 30-seconds on television is about to be dedicated to the debate.
Focus on the Family - a seriously laughable right-wing organization dedicated to shoehorning 'Christian' teachings into secular American life - has paid an outrageous fortune to air an anti-abortion commercial during Superbowl XLV. It will be watched by tens of millions (and be a serious downer sandwiched between cheerful ads for beer and pick up trucks!)
The focus of the commercial is Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Florida Gators. The commercial will focus on how his mother, living in the Philippines during the 1980s, was pressured to have an abortion which would have 'aborted' this Maxwell-award winning footballer.
The Gainesville Sun explain:
Tim's story begins years before his birth, when his parents, both University of Florida students in the late-1960s, met on campus. In 1985, the family moved to the Philippines, where they lived as missionaries. Just before her pregnancy with Tim Tebow, his mother Pam fell into a coma after contracting amoebic dysentery, a bacteria transmitted through contaminated drinking water. When she discovered the pregnancy, doctors told Pam the fetus had been damaged. They encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy. Full story here.The 'heartwarming' story, of course, is that Pam refused the abortion because of her strong Christian convictions and at the end of her pregnancy, the result was a beautiful, healthy baby boy who would later be voted 'the nation's most outstanding amateur athlete in any sport.'
The focus of the commercial is on making people consider just what potential each and every aborted baby might have had if the birth had been carried through to term - and Focus of the Family hope that the anti-abortion message will strengthen their movement to have abortion in all forms banned across the United States.
There's one problem with the commercial, however. Many people are claiming that Tim Tebow's story of faith-affirming survival against the odds is bullshit (such as Salon, here.)
When Tim's mother was pregnant, she and her family were living in the Philippines - were abortion has been banned since 1870. Abortions are forbidden under any circumstances, including rape or cases in which the life of the mother is jeopardized.
Doctors and midwives who perform abortions face losing their medical license and being imprisoned for up to six years. Women who have abortions - for whatever reason - can be jailed for up to two years. Abortion is so stigmatized in the Philippines that women seeking aftercare for an illegally-obtained abortion (the only way to terminate a pregnancy in the country) are routinely refused medical treatment and reported to the police.
In short; it's very unlikely that Tim Tebow's mother was actually advised to have an abortion, even if her life was in danger. Even if that was true, her claim that doctors "fought for me to have an abortion from the very beginning, all the way through the seventh month" simply doesn't ring true. Why would doctors repeatedly risk losing their license and being imprisoned in order to pressure an unwilling woman into have a procedure that she didn't want and which was illegal?
Hey, I don't know the facts. I wasn't there. Perhaps an approximation of this story did happen, in some form. However, based on the facts, Tim Tebow's 'heartwarming' story is, at best, an exaggeration and at worst, an outright lie.
And while I've found an awful lot of peace with the Pro-Life movement, I really resent being lied to. I resent millions of dollars being spent on promoting a story that isn't entirely true. I thought we'd put a stop on that after the 2008 Presidential Elections.
I left a comment on the blog of Mike Waters, a very intelligent and articulate Christian who alerted me this story in the first place. It expresses my thoughts on the Tebow commercial - and the abortion debate in general - pretty succinctly:
If Pro-Choice and Pro-Life teamed up and invested all the millions they waste on commercials like this into providing adequate sex education and contraceptives, we’d eliminate the need for abortions within a decade.
But neither side will do that because – quelle surprise – abortion isn’t actually the issue they’re fighting over.
Actually ENDING abortion is less important than scoring cheap political points off each other. The Pro-Life side are trying to enforce religious principles and subjugate women, the Pro-Choice side is trying to enforce population control and engage in social engineering. Abortion is just the cover they use to mask their true agendas.
Both sides disgust me.