Monday, February 1, 2010

True Pro-Choice Response to Tebow's Ad

Google alerts fills me in daily on what's going around the web related to abortion and other political issues. Lately it seems half the articles tagged "abortion" are articles criticizing the decision to have Tim Tebow's story appear in a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. There's been quite a lot of backlash from pro-choicers, including some who go so far as to imply Tebow's story isn't true.

But there has been some very reasonable response from the pro-choice camp. A New York Times editorial entitled "Super Bowl Censorship" argues that it was a good thing that CBS allowed the ad.

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.

Can't say it any better than those last two sentences, you know?

Another article from the Washington Post, written by the former president of NARAL Pro-choice America and the former president of Catholics for Choice, argues that the pro-choice movement needs to stop whining about the ad and adopt a similar strategy.

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.

For me, Erin Matson's comment fits both of those descriptions: it makes no sense, and it reinforces my view that pro-choice often simply means pro-abortion. But I'm glad to see pro-choicers arguing for a more reasonable stance.

The other nice thing about the Post article is how in-depth it goes talking about the recent history of attitudes toward abortion. For one thing, they admit that science has taught us a lot about the abortion issue:

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. 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.

And for another thing, they give a nice free shout-out to Feminists for Life:

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.

Advances in science and the development of a coherent, progressive pro-life ethic are two things that get me excited about the pro-life movement. It makes me happy that folks on the other side are noticing those things, too.

As I read these articles I began to think, as I often do, about the issue of common ground between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. Ultimately, I know that I can't compromise my views on abortion, mainly because of the nature of the act. One decision can end the life of a human being in the womb; once that's done, that human being will never live again.

But there is certainly common ground on this issue. Common ground doesn't mean compromise. It just means there are certain things that people on both sides understand. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can both see how beautiful it is for a child to be raised in a loving family. Both can see how hard pregnancy is. Both can see how heart-wrenching it can be when the issue of fetal deformities comes up. Both can understand "that life without tough choices doesn't exist."

Sure, it's hard to know what to do with that common ground, since fundamentally there is no compromise on this issue. But coming from a pro-life perspective, I know it's important to recognize this common ground because we need to continually set before our eyes the humanity of our opponents.

We are pro-life; we respect the true dignity of all human beings. This can't just be an abstract principle. It has to be put into practice through civility in our public discourse, and through genuine understanding of the struggles that lead to abortion. The goal is not simply to prevent one act of violence, but to promote human flourishing more generally.

I sure hope that's something we can all agree on. Anyway, try not to let all the controversy ruin the Super Bowl for you.

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