Super Bowl Censorship
The commercials during the Super Bowl, a showcase for the best (or worst) in TV advertising, often generate buzz and sometimes outrage. This year, viewers will see one ad that has already triggered a heated debate about abortion and censorship.
The 30-second spot, financed by the conservative religious group Focus on the Family, is said to recount the pregnancy of Pam Tebow, mother of the college football star Tim Tebow. After falling ill during a mission to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child, who became the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner.
The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other voices for protecting women’s reproductive freedom have called on CBS to yank it. Their protest is puzzling and dismaying.
A letter sent to CBS by the Women’s Media Center and other groups argues that the commercial “uses one family’s story to dictate morality to the American public, and encourages young women to disregard medical advice, putting their lives at risk” — a lame attempt to portray the ad as life-threatening. Others argue that even a mild discussion of such a divisive issue has no place in the marketing extravaganza known as the Super Bowl.
The would-be censors are on the wrong track. Instead of trying to silence an opponent, advocates for allowing women to make their own decisions about whether to have a child should be using the Super Bowl spotlight to convey what their movement is all about: protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices.
CBS was right to change its policy of rejecting paid advocacy commercials from groups other than political candidates. After the network screens ads for accuracy and taste, viewers can watch and judge for themselves. Or they can get up from the couch and get a sandwich.