Choice = Choice

I’ll be spending this Super Bowl with my sisters, who are members of Feminists for Life (“because women deserve better”), who are “pro-life”, and who think that birth control is immoral and abortion should be illegal (with strong punishments for the doctor who performs the abortion and practically no punishment for the woman who chose it). I fully anticipate that there will be a moment of awed silence when the much-vaunted commercial airs. It will then be followed by rounds of, “Why don’t antilifers want people to see this?” To which I shall reply thusly:

“Tebow is a woman who was faced with a difficult medical situation and offered a set of choices by her doctors. She was given all the information she needed to make a choice about her medical welfare. She was told what the doctors recommended. Then, she made her choice. No one can help but respect that. The problem that ‘antilifers’ have with this ad is that it does not celebrate choice, it attempts to remove choice. This is not a celebration of one woman’s difficult choice, this is rhetoric that claims that this choice was the only one that any woman should be able to make. And that is not worthy of respect; that is worthy of derision. It is worthy of objecting to the ad. Anyone who says that their choice should be the choice for all people is, at best, insane. Choice equals choice, not predetermined choice.”

It is likely that my argument will fall upon deaf ears. But since this is my bully pulpit (and the home of my sister will not be), allow me to flesh this out a bit.

CBS is a content provider whose use of the airwaves is supposed to be at the whim of the people. Of course, this has long since become a fiction that we use to make us feel better about corporate control of information. It is fully within its rights to decide how it will decide what content it will broadcast. So I do not object to its right to allow Focus on the Family to push its agenda while disallowing from pushing its agenda. It is also, however, the right of those disenfranchised by its decisions to delve deeper, publish information about those decisions, create satire [via Feministing], and boycott the company in an effort to change its ways.

CBS should be open about the fact that it worked closely with Focus on the Family to develop the commercial (via Feministing, which notes, “I wonder how many other of their advertisers get such personal attention.”) It should be open about its political agenda or—if it wants to maintain a façade of neutrality—allow political views with which it disagrees.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that the story extolled by the commercial (that Tebow refused her doctor’s recommendation to abort while in the Philippines as a missionary) may not be true since abortion was illegal in that country at the time and punishable by six years in prison. Take from that what you will.

Fortunately for us all, two male professional athletes have spoken up about the ongoing degradation of women by anti-choicers:

We’re working toward the day where every woman will be valued. Where every woman’s decision about her health and her family will be respected.
We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters, by trusting women.

Since football is one of the most misogynistic of our national sports [via Feministing] (which, I know, is like calling water one of the wettest liquids), I think that’s the sentiment that CBS should be promoting. I support Tebow’s decision. I just wish that she returned the favor.


  1. I’m not certain I’ll ever understand the desire to have your version of morality legislated, or the desire to force others to live the way you think is right.

    In my view, the right of a woman to choose to not have an abortion owes exactly as much to having a free, secular society as the right to choose to have an abortion. That is, if the right to have an abortion can be taken away, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that the right to not have an abortion is also threatened.

  2. John

    Hear hear, xJane. Well argued, and eloquently spoken. I don’t think I can add much, other than that just because abortion is illegal, it doesn’t mean that brave (or is it more complex–greedy?) doctors don’t still offer the service.

  3. John

    Craig, I can understand that if pro-lifers truly equated fetuses at various stages of growth with the same status as legal individuals, why they might legislate protection for them. But when I examine their logic, I actually don’t think they value the unborn so much as they want to control women’s bodies.

    Here are just a couple of examples, but they don’t:
    – pour their resources into preventing the billions of fetal deaths through spontaneous miscarriage. (way more than are lost to abortion)
    – encourage comprehensive sex education with the realization that they would be saving untold lives of the unborn . etc., etc.

  4. “they don’t – pour their resources into preventing the billions of fetal deaths” etc.

    I had not thought of it that way… interesting, thanks. I think I agree. It seems that many really don’t care so much about “life” per se, but about their version of “morality.”

  5. I find that happens with a lot of conservative issues. On the surface they might make sense, but once you gather evidence they fall apart – but I guess that’s why I’m such a raving liberal.

    I understand the desire to preserve life, I really, really do, and I think a lot of those who oppose abortion do so out of that reason, and I think that many haven’t dissected the issue as it needs to be, and haven’t really thought about it more than the sensationalised “KILLING BABIES OMG!”

    Even if I allow that a foetus is as important as a human who has already been born (and I don’t believe that), the protestation that those who oppose abortion are “pro-life” falls flat on its face as soon as one investigates the other views that tend to go along with that. Our system for dealing with unwanted and undernurtured children is broken as it is, if abortions were to stop, the number of children who would need to be adopted, who would need serious medical attention, who would be put in the foster-care system, etc. would increase dramatically, and rarely are those who oppose the legality of abortion those who also support increasing social programme funding, or increasing the pool of possible adoptive and foster parents (singles, gays).

    What is especially sad to me is that a woman is no less misogynist for opposing the right to abortion just because she’s a woman. It is tragic when you can convince those who are discriminated against to perpetuate and defend their own discrimination.

  6. John

    Craig, excellent points.

    One more inconsistency just crossed my mind: the people I know who are the most willing to extend legal protections to fetuses are also the most ardent supporters of US military excursions abroad. I might believe they were “pro-life” if they valued, say, an Iraqi life half as much as they did a blastocyst.


  7. Silly John, those people aren’t Americans! Clearly they deserve their lot in life, and Jesus is surely using the righteous US military to punish them for their heathen sins.

    I mean, everybody knows that Americans lives are better and more important than Iraqi or Afghani lives. American are exceptional!

  8. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words here. I have also been following feministing and other blogs about this commercial and feel so frustrated that women are so soundly denied their decisions and choices when it comes to such an important and life-changing decision. I am especially dismayed to find CBS giving special attention to Focus on the Family. Ridiculous.

  9. Well, I was a bit disappointed about the lack of controversy from the ad. Now what do we talk about? Perhaps we can argue that Tebow tackling his mother was symbolic for anti-choice or violence against women? 🙂

  10. Yeah, the commercial would have been that much better without the linkage.

    Fwiw, all those men are wimps or pigs commercials were the most bothersome to me. Why is there no controversy there?

  11. hah, yeah after all that build up it was pretty anticlimactic, although it got my sisters bickering about which antichoice group was most bestest. And yeah, all the others were pretty horrible, too.

  12. Here, here, xjane. You articulated what I have thought about but couldn’t find the appropriate words to explain. It’s not so much the opposition to the commercial but the inferences made by it.

    John, your comment, “I actually don’t think they value the unborn so much as they want to control women’s bodies. ” is very much on the money. Women and babies seem to have more value as a martyrs who risk death in childbirth.

    Given the opposition to sex ed, it feels very much like an effort to control women. Education = empowerment.

    Where are the protests of men who impregnate women?

    Why are humans so hell bent on women’s “purity” and not men’s? This has gone on for many millenia and has infiltrated our cultures, shaped religions, and I don’t understand it. Because of the prevalence of misogyny for well, forever it seems, I have to believe there’s something psychological at work. But it doesn’t help me excuse or understand it.

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