Monday, February 01, 2010

Two abortion supporters who get it. Sort of.

What Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad can teach the pro-choice movement, by Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Next Sunday, when millions of people tune in to watch Super Bowl XLIV, they'll see a football star off the field, too. Tim Tebow, the University of Florida's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, is set to appear with his mother in a 30-second advertisement to be aired during the game. The spot, which has not been released, is said to feature Tebow, by all reports a humble young man who takes his faith seriously, and his mother telling the story of her decision 23 years ago to ignore medical advice and continue a risky pregnancy. Pam Tebow says that she had contracted amoebic dysentery, and her doctors feared that the medicine used to treat her illness might cause fetal deformity. The healthy and very successful Tim proved them wrong.

An excellent summary.

For abortion rights supporters, picking on Tim Tebow and his mom is not the way to go.

Indeed. It's hard to argue that you're for "choice" when you go into an apoplexy of rage every time a woman makes a choice that's not abortion.

Instead of trying to block or criticize the Focus on the Family ad, the pro-choice movement needs its own Super Bowl strategy.

And what, pray tell, would that strategy be?

People want to be inspired, and abortion is as tough and courageous a decision as is the decision to continue a pregnancy.

Yes, people do indeed want to be inspired. But what's inspirational about abortion? It's a capitulation to fear and despair, to the point of killing one's own offspring. Which, yeah, can be a tough thing for a frightened woman to force herself to do. Maybe she is afraid she won't be able to care for a child. Maybe she has other children and doesn't know how she can still care for them if she has another child. Maybe she's afraid her man will leave her. It's not that she wants this particular child to die; it's that she doesn't see a way out of the trap.

As Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote, "No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."

Yeah, you can see such an act as courageous, I suppose. Aron Ralston, for example, certainly inspired us with his courage when he amputated his own arm after getting trapped by a boulder in the wilderness. But what if there had been people hiking nearby that Aron could have called out to, who could have rescued him and saved his arm? What if he'd cut his own arm off not because there was no other option, but because he was embarrassed to have gotten stuck? Because he didn't want his mom to know he'd been hiking alone? Because he was impatient and didn't want to wait for rescuers to arrive?

Cutting his own arm off in those circumstances seems more pathological than courageous. More on this later. Back to Kissling and Michelman:

All Tim Tebow wants to do next Sunday, we are told, is let the world know that he's glad his mother had him and that he hopes other women make the same choice. Pam Tebow was indeed courageous and had the legal right to choose, a point the pro-choice movement can readily make in response to the ad.

The only people who don't want women to have a right to make the choice Pam Tebow made are working within the "prochoice" movement. It's only abortion supporters, not abortion opponents, who have ever moved toward making the birth choice illegal for some women. We can see this in action in China. And in the wake of Sarah Palin's nomination, we heard right in America from people who don't think that women carrying "imperfect" babies should have the right to choose birth. So holding Pam Tebow up as an example of a choice the prochoice movement made available is disingenuous, to say the least. But it's a claim abortion supporters seem compelled to make, as in this editorial saying that the abortion-rights movement is about "protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices." Um, earth to prochoicers -- you didn't invent childbirth. Women have given birth for millennia, and don't need legal abortion to be able to do so.

Those opposed to legal abortions have learned a lot about reaching out to the many Americans who can't make up their minds about the issue. Many of these people don't want abortion to be illegal but believe that too many such procedures take place in this country. Conservative groups, such as Focus on the Family, have gotten that message. They know to save the fire and brimstone for their hardcore base; for Super Bowl Sunday, you appeal to people's hearts with a smiling baby -- or Tim Tebow and his mom. Presenting Americans with a challenge of personal sacrifice, especially if the person who has to sacrifice is a woman, is a convincing sell.

But what sacrifice did Pam Tebow make? She knew what she wanted -- a live baby -- and she pursued her goal.

Women's and choice groups responding to the Tebow ad should take a page from the Focus on the Family playbook. Erin Matson, the National Organization for Women's new vice president, called the Tebow spot "hate masquerading as love." That kind of comment may play well in the choice choir, but to others, it makes no sense, at best; at worst, it's seen as the kind of stridency that reinforces the view that pro-choice simply means pro-abortion.

Duh. As if there aren't an abundance of examples of "prochoice" meaning "proabortion". I can provide examples for those of you who've lived in a cave and thus never saw any for yourself.

We have seen a dramatic shift in attitudes toward "pro-life" and "pro-choice." In 1995 Gallup asked respondents for the first time whether they considered themselves "to be pro-choice or pro-life." Only 33 percent took on the pro-life label. In 2009, 51 percent considered themselves pro-life, and pro-choice had dropped from a high of 56 percent to 44 percent.


Neither movement can take full credit or blame for the change. Science played a big role, making the fetus more visible. Today, the first picture in most baby books is the 12-week 3D ultrasound, and Grandma and Grandpa have that photo posted on the fridge.

A shocking admission -- that science tends to lead people to reject abortion. But another "Paging Captain Obvious" moment. It's hard to argue that abortion isn't killing a baby when people are used to looking at what looks very much like a baby at that same age.

We read about successful fetal surgery; we don't read about women dying in pools of blood on their bathroom floors after botched abortions, as we did when the procedure was illegal.

As if dying in a pool of blood on your bathroom floor is somehow okay if the abortion was legal. The procohice movement has lost interest in gruesome abortion deaths now that they're not good for political fodder.

Congress has also weighed in. The "partial birth" abortion ban was introduced in 1995, shifting attention from the choice movement's effective "who decides" message -- which became the key question after the Supreme Court's 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision -- to what the Catholic bishops had always wanted America to ask: "What is being decided?"

Isn't what's being decided relevant? You could hide behind "Who decides?" on any issue if you didn't want people to look at what you're choosing. Do we want to let pedophile priests make the difficult decision about molesting children in privacy, based on their own conscience and their own beliefs and their own wishes, behind a veil of privacy and "Who decides?" Or are there some decisions -- such as molesting a child, or killing him -- that just ought not to be made?

Such influences notwithstanding, there is no doubt that some segments of the antiabortion movement were more nimble and consistent in reaching out to the uncommitted than the choice advocates were. In the spring of 1992, the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation began a multimillion-dollar ad campaign with a "do the right thing" message -- similar to that in the Tebow spot. For five years, its "Life, What a Beautiful Choice" ads saturated media markets where public opinion on abortion was deeply divided.

And, like the Tebow ad, these ads sent people who were ostensibly "prochoice" into fits of rage.

NARAL Pro-Choice America followed with its "Choice for America" campaign, using symbols of freedom such as the U.S. flag to frame choice as a quintessential American value. "What's life without choice?" the ads asked. Tracking polls in the states where the spots aired showed an increase in identification with abortion rights, but donor support lagged, and the ads ended up on the shelf.

Perhaps because, like I said before, not all choices are equal.

On the other side, though, the innovation continued. Groups such as Feminists for Life started out relatively small but invested heavily in reaching out to college students, talking not about making abortion illegal but about helping college women keep their babies. Their pro-life message wasn't exclusively anti-abortion; it was anti-capital-punishment, antiwar, for saving the whales, for not eating meat and for supporting mothers. It wasn't the mainstream of the antiabortion movement, but it had its appeal.

But, perhaps, not any appeal for the "prochoice"? If you're for "choice", what's there not to like in a campaign that helps college women keep their babies? Isn't keeping the baby a valid choice?

Today, all sorts of well-educated and progressive people are comfortable calling themselves pro-life.

Though really, it's still seen as pretty gauche. All the Beautiful People are Prochoice.

In the public eye, the term seems to encompass a broader and more moderate vision, not focused solely on what it opposes.

Imagine the idea that it's somehow new for "Live and let live" to be "moderate". It seems that those in favor of such an extreme act as taking another person's life for one's own personal benefit are inherently extreme. Why aren't they seen as such?

So here's our Super Bowl strategy for the choice movement. We'd go with a 30-second spot, too. The camera focuses on one woman after another, posed in the situations of daily life: rushing out the door in the morning for work, flipping through a magazine, washing dishes, teaching a class of sixth-graders, wheeling a baby stroller. Each woman looks calmly into the camera and describes her different and successful choice: having a baby and giving it up for adoption, having an abortion, having a baby and raising it lovingly. Each one being clear that making choices isn't easy, but that life without tough choices doesn't exist.

Though giving birth --whether to raise the child or to make an adoption plan -- is a choice you don't need "choice" to choose. Odd that the abortion advocacy movement somehow wants credit for making birth available!

Now, let's get back to the "abortion as a tough choice", and the very apt analogy of taking off a limb.

Imagine the trapped hiker again. And imagine that other hikers know he's there, but they won't try to move the boulder. They won't call for rescue. They won't give him food or water or pain relief. They'll just concede that yeah, hacking the arm off with a pocket knife is a tough choice. They'll pat him on the shoulder and tell him how brave he is to do it. But they'll do nothing to address the desperation that leads him to the choice.

You'd not see them as very helpful, would you?

But isn't that what happens in abortion clinics and within the prochoice movement?

Women with health problems, like Ashli McCall, who don't want to abort their babies, are not given the health care they need and want. They're just scraped out and sent home. In the name of "choice".

Women who face prenatal diagnoses are often browbeaten to abort when they don't want to. It's the rare prochoice politician or activist -- like Ted Kennedy -- who stands up for these women. They're far too valuable as human shields, and to divert attention away from the real reasons late abortions are usually done, for the abortion lobby to let them slip away to the birthing room.

And then there are the ordinary women without health problems, with healthy babies, climbing tearfully onto the abortion table. They're not, by and large, choosing freely to do this. They're doing it because they feel trapped, because they don't believe there is any other way to deal with their challenges.

Maybe Kissling and Michelman can imagine a victorious, inspiring abortion. The reality is more sad and depressing. And it's hard to make an upbeat ad out of that.

HT: Jill Stanek


Alena said...

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L. said...

Hmmmm, maybe I killed a star football player with my contraception? Ah well, the world is too sports-crazy already -- no great loss there.

Kristen said...

Great post!

Lilliput said...


This is a ridiculous advertisement against abortion - and only goes to show how out of touch the anti legal abortion side is.

Tim's mom was pregnant and there was a risk of having a fetal deformity. She had a think and decided for herself that even in the worst case where her baby is deformed she would be able to handle the situation. Its great that the miracle happened that he is fine however would his mother be standing in that advert if she had an unwell or deformed child making that same advert - I wonder?

So the question is all about risk and how much risk you can take. If a mother is alerted to the risk of her baby having a condition that she feels she will not be able to handle - then she has the choice to terminate - because if she decides to go ahead with the pregnancy and the worst case scenario happens and her child is ill and she cannot handle it - then what must she do - leave it in care for someone else to bear the financial and emotional burden of care.

And what I would like to know - or have been trying to research for a while now - is we know that many women regret their abortions but how many women regret having their children? Now remember this is the biggest Taboo - for a mother not to love her children - its considered psychopathic - and even if a mother thinks it she can never ever say it for the repurcussions it will have for the children. Also, we cannot have adverts of young teens standing next to their children saying - I'm sorry I didn't choose to have an abortion - now my child stops me from going to school and travel and then persue my career and make lots of money for a big house I can share with my wonderful husband. Or a mother next to her quadraplegic child's bed saying, " I'm sorry I didn't take the doctors advice to abort as he said the risk of this condition was high. Now I spend my days giveing sponge baths and toiletting"

I'm not being insensitive at all - I'm just saying if you want to go down this route of advertising you set yourselves up for a fall. There are women who can handle any child no matter what and there are those that can't.

Jennifer said...

Excellent article Christina! The pro-aborts just can't seem to get it in their brain that abortion kills babies, and has nothing to do with 'reproductive choices' (hint, if your pregnant, you've already reproduced) It's the only issue, and one they rarely address. They just choose to spew hate, lies, and block funding to organizations that provide pregnancy services that don't offer the choice of death. As a person who benefited greatly from a crisis pregnancy center, I can attest to their generosity and love for pregnant women.

Also, L, if you are suggesting that contraception is somehow the same as abortion, you have lost your marbles.

Lilliput, a lot of people may regret their children. That doesn't mean killing them prebirth should be legal. There are plenty of adoptive parents who are willing to take a child with birth defects. I know a family that is on a waiting list for a special needs baby. But unfortunately, those babies get their arms and legs ripped off and their skulls crushed. Hard to adopt a dead baby.

L. said...

Jennifer, I agree, I lost my marbles a long time ago, but that has nothing to do with this thread.

Some contraception alters the uterine walls to prevent any stray embryos from implanting. This doesn't bother me, but it bothers plenty of other people.

Lilliput said...

Jennifer, there are more then enough special needs children available for adoption so I don't know why the family that you are speaking about are on a waiting list. There are obviously not that many babies available as their mothers obviously give it a try at looking after them and when they cannot cope then they put them in care.

No woman has to have a baby as someone elses christmas present they can pre order on amazon. I don't know so much about their being plenty of families wanting to adopt special needs children but I do know that there are plenty of birth mothers and adoptees walking around with a integral missing part of themselves.

Christina Dunigan said...

L, I would see nothing wrong with an ad featuring women like those in the Be Not Afraid web site, where sometimes the prognosis is correct and the baby doesn't survive. Stories like this one are still inspiring -- they show people who determined that even if their child's life was going to be tragically short, they were going to fill it with as much love as possible.

A much more triumphant and inspiring story than "So we had Dr. Tiller perform a lethal injection and I pushed out my dead baby into a toilet."

The end is the same in both situations -- a dead child -- but in the prolife story, the child is allowed to live out every minute of his life, and the parents do everything to make sure that the child gets every moment of love possible. In the abortion story, the baby gets a needle in the heart and an injection of the same drug that the ACLU says is cruel to inject into an anesthetized criminal during an execution. The baby gets a death that a lot of people don't even want to inflict on a serial murderer. Where's the triumph and inspiration in that?

Lilliput said...

There is no triumph or inspiration in either stories Christine its how people choose to grieve their children. Some may want to carry their child to term to have the physical process of the child dying in their arms while others decide to terminate and do their grieving then. As for love - that doesn't need a physical body. My mother loved the thought of me before I came to exist and will love me if I die before her and vice versa. You don't stop loving someone after they die and I believe - if you're going to get spiritual and religious that the baby knows its loved by the anguish the mother feels whichever decision she takes. Its not a question of these people in your so called inspirational stories loving their children more then mothers that terminate. Its a matter of them deciding what's best for themselves and their children.

Love doesn't need a physical body - not on earth and certainly not in heaven!

Christina Dunigan said...

There IS triumph and inspiration in giving your child as much love as you can. And you can talk about how you can still love the child even after you've had him put to death -- but HE can not RECEIVE the love, because he is DEAD. What good does love do me when the way it's acted out is to end my life?

Aborting isn't a way of choosing to grieve a child. Its choosing to try to lessen your own grief by getting the ordeal over with. But in getting the ordeal over with, you're ending the child's life prematurely -- denying him days or maybe only hours of life that were his to live, not yours to take. And the parents' grief isn't lessened or shortened if the child dies sooner.

You can drag religion into it and say that the dead child can appreciate the mother's love and anguish, but the child is STILL DEAD.

I'm not saying that the mothers whose doctors and loved ones convince them to abort don't love their children. I'm saying that the children aren't given the time to spend being loved, and the parents aren't getting to spend that time with a living child they can lavish their love upon.

Can you really believe that being alive is of so little value?

Lilliput said...

Its not that I believe that being alive is of little value but rather that I view quality of life above all. If I was born with a condition that allowed me just to be alive just for the fact I can draw breadth then I would rather not live much less make one of my children "live" like that.

I don't know if you are aware but here in Britain there is a big movement in trying to get assisted suicide legal for people who don't have the money to travel to dignitas in switzerland where it is legal. This came about after a mother helped her terminally ill daughter to die and was aquitted. If someone u love is in pain then how are u expected to sit and do nothing when they tell you they want to go and you know that they cannot do it themselves. Must they stick around so you can lavish your love on them?

This child said to her mom "I'm too broken - you can't fix me. I want to go" this mother loved her so much she risked prison to set her child free and I see this in mothers who choose to terminate babies who would not survive anuway or if they did survive it would be with a very minimal quality of life.

Christina Dunigan said...

First of all, assisted suicide and abortion are two very different things. A person chooses (however freely or under pressure) to end his or her own life via assisted suicide. Abortion is choosing to end somebody else's life.

And it takes a lot of hubris to think you can weigh whether or not somebody else's life is worth living! I'm sure that a rich woman used to luxury would never want to trade places with me. Somebody accustomed to my life wouldn't want to trade places with a poor woman in Calcutta. The poor woman in Calcutta wouldn't want to trade places with a woman in a refugee camp. But does that mean that the woman in the refugee camp has a life that's not worth living?

Second of all, there have been cases of people trying to get assisted suicide, who changed their minds after disability rights activists helped them to get adaptive equipment, palliative care, etc.

Death isn't something you can change your mind about later if you don't like it.

OperationCounterstrike said...

Abortion, like all preventative medicine, is rarely a triumphant thing.

Usually parties and triumphs are for doing something, not for preventing a disaster.

Christina Dunigan said...

Most people don't consider a baby to be a disaster.

Lilliput said...

Some things we just can't fix christina and how do we know how their minds were changed? It could be with the same methods that abortionists or partners get pregnant women to change their mind about keeping their babies.

All I am saying is that one way will not work for everyone and everyone should have a choice about what they want to do. We are tinkering with the laws of nature or God by keeping people alive when they would otherwise die - I don't see why the opposite also can't take place.

Christina Dunigan said...

Yes, Lil, each person is different and each person has different needs But to have another person put to death because you're having trouble coping isn't a NEED.

A woman may need nursing support. Perinatal hospice. Palliative care. A shoulder to cry on. A support group of parents who have been through similar circumstances. A better ob/gyn. A specialist. A new and experimental treatment. Help with the housework. A babysitter. All sorts of different needs.

Abortion after a bad prognosis doesn't make the woman's pain any less; it just places fewer demands on society. We can just refer her to a late term abortionist and pretend the whole thing never happened. Or we can rally around her.

With a birth plan, there is always the possibility that the doctor was wrong and that the baby is either okay, or isn't nearly in as bad a shape as the doctor thought. With a birth plan, there is a chance to hold your baby while she is still alive, to give her the chance to be held and cuddled and nursed. To give her the chance to hear the voices of her father and siblings. (She's been hearing Mom's voice for months already.)

With an abortion, all possibility to salvage any joy from the situation dies with the baby. Whether the doctor's prognosis was right or wrong, the baby is still dead. Who does it really benefit to kill all hope, to shred the last possibility to get any joy, to give the baby any opportunities to have the sun shine on her face and feel the warm breeze?

Go to the Be Not Afraid web site and read the stories, from the most tragic ones where the baby is stillborn to the most victorious ones where it turns out the doctors were wrong. A birth plan offers hope, however slim. There can be no hope, no joy, no victory in an abortion.

Why would anybody fight for the right to close the door on any possibility of something beautiful coming out of an otherwise tragic situation?

OperationCounterstrike said...

Granny Grump, most people would consider BEING FORCED TO GROW AND BIRTH A BABY YOU DON'T WANT a disaster.

Christina Dunigan said...

1. Just because the woman initially rejects the pregnancy doesn't mean she'll reject the baby. Read Alec Bourne's book. Do some research. Even women who undergo unsuccessful abortions change their minds sometimes and are happy to have their babies. Your presumption that "initial reaction to pregnancy is 'Oh shit!' is just that -- a presumption.

2. SHE DID THE BABYMAKING THING. She has no goddam business pretending that this doesn't bring with it a responsibility to care for any babies she makes. DITTO FOR DAD. You make a baby, you take care of it or you make an adoption plan. The baby is in the untenable situation because two adults put him or her there. Punishing the baby is irresponsible and mean.

Christina Dunigan said...

Oops -- edit problem. It's your presumption that "initial reaction to pregnancy is 'Oh, shit' = hated baby" that's a presumption. It's been documented faulty for over half a century.

Lilliput said...

That's your way of seeing things and I completely respect that and would support anyone going through that if that is what they wish to do - in the same way that I would expecvt anyone else to respect my way of looking at things and my view of how it should be for me.

Christina Dunigan said...

Lil, you realize you might as well be trying to convince me to see John List's side of things, how we need to respect how he chose to deal with his unemployment and his family problems. I'm never going to concede that killing your children is an acceptable option that we as a society need to keep open to people.

Lilliput said...

Christina, if you're comparing a mentally ill man murdering his family because of the shame associated with going on welfare to a mother making a decision to terminate a non viable pregnancy then I don't really know what to say.

I think the List storey does highlight the society he lived in whereit was seen as shameful to be on welfare - and this is why I can't understand why u guys don't have a more socialised political view of life. If you want all babies born no matter what - surely someone has to support them.

Also, I just reread the ending of this post about the absence of inspiring abortion stories - and I think its because maybe you haven't been looking. I know of one where a friend of mine got pregnant at 18 - her partner was unsupportive and her family did lay out the consequences of what would have to happen if she kept the baby. I suppose she capitulated to their wishes and had the termination and today she has a child with a loving husband after travelling and working and growing up to a place where she can parent a child successfully. I am sure there are plenty of the same stories.

Lilliput said...

Christina, if you're comparing a mentally ill man murdering his family because of the shame associated with going on welfare to a mother making a decision to terminate a non viable pregnancy then I don't really know what to say.

I think the List storey does highlight the society he lived in whereit was seen as shameful to be on welfare - and this is why I can't understand why u guys don't have a more socialised political view of life. If you want all babies born no matter what - surely someone has to support them.

Also, I just reread the ending of this post about the absence of inspiring abortion stories - and I think its because maybe you haven't been looking. I know of one where a friend of mine got pregnant at 18 - her partner was unsupportive and her family did lay out the consequences of what would have to happen if she kept the baby. I suppose she capitulated to their wishes and had the termination and today she has a child with a loving husband after travelling and working and growing up to a place where she can parent a child successfully. I am sure there are plenty of the same stories.

OperationCounterstrike said...


Reply to 1. Some people who were converted to Islam by threat of immediate death, went on to be happy Muslims. This does not make forced conversion any less of a disaster or any less of a violation, I think you'll agree. Similarly, just because some women end up happy after being forced to give birth, does not justify forcing them.

Reply to 2. The idea, that any sex act commits the people to growing a pregnancy is your personal religious quirk. It's just one of many conceptions of what sex is for, and you have no more business trying to enforce it on others than the others would have trying to enforce a more hedonistic position on you.

One could equally well argue that sex is manifestly meant for pleasure so if you have sex without orgasm you are committing a sin, or some such nonsense.

Tonal Bliss said...

OC, you keep on making me laugh. :)