Battle Over Super Bowl Abortion Ad Rages on: Is Tim Tebow's Birth Story Even True?

High-profile lawyer argues it's an impossible scenario that doctors would have suggested abortion as a viable option for Tebow in the first place.

The Super Bowl ad war rages on.

First, there was the initial controversy over Focus on the Family's 30-second ad, in which the mother of University of Florida quarterback and Christian extraordinaire Tim Tebow tells the story of her brave decision to give birth to her son despite doctors' advice to the contrary. The spot is set to air during the Super Bowl this coming Sunday, despite the network's long-standing policy of rejecting "issue-oriented" advertisements on Super Bowl Sunday. A divisive and overtly anti-choice commercial such as this would obviously breach this rule.

Now, however, some are questioning whether or not the story of Tebow's miraculous birth is even true.

The Tim Tebow story, in a nutshell, is this: In 1987, Tebow's mother, Pam, was working as a missionary in the Philippines, when she contracted amoebic dysentery, an illness so grave her doctors feared it could result in a deformed fetus. The advice she was given: Get an abortion. Instead, she went ahead with her pregnancy, giving birth to Tim, who, as the Associated Press explained, "went on to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy while helping his Florida team to two BCS championships."

In its Super Bowl commercial, Focus on the Family apparently uses this inspiring tale to send a message to the ladies, a message succinctly summarized by AlterNet's Tana Ganeva as: "How stupid would you feel if you aborted the next Tim Tebow, leaving the world with only tens of thousands of other football players?"

Seriously, though, the commercial has understandably pissed off a lot of people, particularly women's groups. This past weekend, former Catholics for Choice president Frances Kissling and former NARAL Pro-Choice America president Kate Michelman co-wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, arguing that pro-choice groups should fight back with commercials of their own, while also pointing out the hypocrisy of CBS allowing the Focus on the Family ad.

"The United Church of Christ was turned down by CBS in 2004 when it wanted to air a Super Bowl ad that celebrated diversity and welcomed gay and lesbian Christians to the denomination," they wrote. "And last year NBC rejected a spot from an antiabortion group that tried to use President Obama's life story to convey its message. The rules of the game seem to have changed without warning."

Journalist and author Dave Zirin, who writes about sports and politics for theNation and Sports Illustrated, concurs, telling AlterNet, "The hypocrisy boggles the mind."

"Super Bowl ads are routinely refused because they fall under the heading of 'advocacy ads.' (The rules are very clear on this: only beer, cars and the U.S. armed forces -- all wrapped in a ribbon of sexism -- can be advocated during the Super Bowl.) And yet Focus on the Family gets the ultimate platform to bash abortion rights. The United Church of Christ was rejected for an ad showing the church welcoming a gay couple with open arms. Other ads by PETA and MoveOn were shown the door. But Focus on the Family and its Trojan Horse of right-wing evangelicalism, Tim Tebow, get a pass."

Since the Tebow controversy broke, the official policy has supposedly been revised to allow advertisements from other advocacy groups as well. Yet this weekend, CBS rejected an ad from the gay dating site, on the grounds that it "is not within the Network's Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday."

Glaring hypocrisy? Absolutely.

But back to Tebow. What if his Focus on the Family-endorsed story isn't exactly true?

In a series of new interviews, the first of which was given to RadarOnline, high-profile attorney Gloria Allred argues that Pam Tebow's heartwarming story omits a rather significant detail that renders the whole thing suspicious; namely, the fact that abortion was illegal in the Philippines in 1987. Indeed, abortion has been illegal in the Philippines since the 1930s, even in cases of rape or incest or if the mother's health is in danger.

According to Radar:

Allred says she believes it an impossible scenario to believe that Philippine doctors would [have] ever suggested abortion as a viable option for Tebow in the first place. And when you learn that physicians and midwives who perform abortions in the Philippines face six years in prison, and may have their licenses suspended or revoked, and that women who receive abortions -- no matter the reason -- may be punished with imprisonment for two to six years, it's easy to see why.

Speaking to MSNBC's Tamron Hall this morning, Allred called the Focus on the Family ad "misleading," saying, "[Pam Tebow] could have gone to prison for two to six years if she'd had an abortion."

While she admitted that "none of us have seen the ad yet," Allred said, "I think the ad should reveal that abortion was illegal at the time."

"No sugar-coated religiously inspired ad which fails to give all of the relevant facts should be permitted to air on CBS or anywhere else," Allred recently wrote in an open letter to CBS president and CEO Les Moonves.

"If this ad airs and fails to disclose that abortions were illegal at the time Ms. Tebow made her 'choice,' then I intend to file a formal complaint of misleading advertising with those federal commissions," she added.

Much has been written about the Focus on the Family ad, but so far, Allred's new argument hasn't gotten a lot of attention. In the meantime, the irony of this whole controversy is that the ad itself, which no one has actually seen, is already famous, well beyond the (already considerable) sphere of those who will actually tune into the Super Bowl this year.

Once the ad is released, expect it to be played non-stop on MSNBC. As the saying goes, you can't buy that kind of publicity.

Liliana Segura is an AlterNet staff writer and editor of Rights & Liberties and World Special Coverage. Follow her on Twitter.
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