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Planned Parenthood Posts Pro-Woman Ad, Putting the Pressure on CBS

With Super Bowl Sunday only a few days away, the fight over Focus on the Family's overtly anti-choice ad featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is raging.
 
 
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With Super Bowl Sunday only a few days away, the fight over Focus on the Family's overtly anti-choice ad featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is catching on. On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood released an ad of its own, featuring Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner and former NFL player Sean James defending a woman's right to choose. The online ad, which has gotten some 45,300 views on YouTube, steers clear of that particular phrase (let alone the word "abortion"), but it does present an effective rejoinder to Focus on the Family's "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" theme.

"I want my daughter to live in a world where everyone's decisions are respected," says Al Joyner.

"My mom showed me that women are strong and wise," says James. "She taught me that only women can make the best decisions about their health and their future."

The Planned Parenthood ad came out just as it was reported by Dana Goldstein at The Daily Beast that, according to a Focus on the Family spokesperson, not only did CBS agree to air the Tebow ad, it "has actually been working closely with CBS executives for months on the ad's script."

"There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot," spokesperson Gary Schneeberger told Goldstein. "And we came to a compromise."

Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, called this revelation "appalling."

Numerous commentators have defended the Focus on the Family ad on free speech grounds. But, as Dave Zirin argued this week in a NY Daily News op-ed, CBS has demonstrated a glaring double-standard when it comes to what messages it considers worth airing.

"To be clear, we should absolutely support Tebow's right to state his political beliefs loudly and proudly and we should soundly reject the concept that jocks should just 'shut up and play,'" says Zirin.

But there are other things we should soundly reject as well. We should reject the utter hypocrisy on display by CBS in airing this ad. The network has long stated that it has Super Bowl rules against "advocacy ads." In 2004, the network rejected a Super Bowl ad from the United Church of Christ in which a church is shown opening its doors to a gay couple. The network has also refused ads from PETA, MoveOn.org and many others. This year, it even rejected a humorous commercial from a gay dating site called Mancrunch.com.

As the Super Bowl approaches, the Women's Media Center has stepped up its campaign to get the commercial pulled. On Wednesday the group held a "day of action," sending out e-mail alerts urging supporters to call the NFL and sign one of its petitions at NotUnderTheBus.com.

Via e-mail, WMC spokesperson Rebekah Spicuglia told AlterNet that since its campaign against the Focus on the Family ad began, "well over 300,000 letters have been sent to CBS, the NFL, and their advertisers from the WMC, our coalition partners, and other organizations."

That includes more than 30 groups that signed onto the WMC's original letter to CBS (including AlterNet).

As women's groups and other activists continued to protest CBS's ideological double-standards -- including a rally in front of the network's Manhattan offices this afternoon -- on Thursday, Tim Tebow himself was seated comfortably in quarters otherwise reserved for the politically powerful and well-connected. Sitting a few seats away from President and First Lady Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, Tebow later gave the closing prayer, in which he exhorted God to "let us come together as one and break down all the barriers in between us that separate us."

Sounds good, but Tebow, who is known for painting bible passages in his eye black -- the dark grease that football players paint under their eyes -- has become the latest symbol of the ultra-polarizing abortion wars.

For its part, WMC says it will be fighting against the Tebow ad until kickoff.

"Game time is 6:30 on Sunday and the NFL is facing increased pressure to step in," says Spicuglia. "The last thing we need is CBS, the NFL, or their advertisers telling us when and how to have a family. It's not too late to send a letter in protest."