After CBS agreed to run a Super Bowl commercial featuring Tim Tebow, several feminist and pro-choice groups rose up in protest against the ad, calling on the network to pull it.
Now, however, even some liberals are calling those attacks misguided, saying the choice to give birth to an unborn child is also part of pro-choice beliefs.
An unsigned New York Times editorial called the campaign to have CBS reject the Tebow spot "puzzling and dismaying." The paper, which takes a pro-choice stance on its editorial pages, called the protesting groups "would-be censors" and said they should use the ad to convey to America that their movement favors "protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices."
The commercial, purchased by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, is set to air during CBS' Super Bowl coverage on Sunday. It is thought to tell how Mrs. Tebow rejected medical advice to abort her difficult fifth pregnancy and instead gave birth to her son Tim. He grew up to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy and help lead the University of Florida Gators to two national titles in his four years at the school.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Women's Media Center (WMC) are among the groups calling on CBS to refuse the ad. In a letter to CBS, WMC stated, "The content of this ad endangers women's health, uses sports to divide rather than to unite, and promotes an organization that opposes the equality of Americans based on gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and reproductive freedom."
However, Frances Kissling, founder and former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, the former longtime head of the National Abortion Rights Action League, wrote a guest column in The Washington Post last Sunday saying their side of the abortion debate should counter the pro-life argument in its own Super Bowl strategy and not attack the Tebows.
"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," wrote the women, two of America's best-known pro-choice advocates.
Sports columnist Sally Jenkins spoke similarly in the Post's pages, saying Tuesday that by attacking an ad showing a woman talking about her choice not to abort, NOW members show they "aren't actually 'pro-choice' so much as they are pro-abortion."
"I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the 'National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time,' " Ms. Jenkins wrote.
A spokeswoman for NOW said Tuesday that her group could not comment immediately to The Washington Times about the liberal criticism. When contacted Tuesday by The Times, WMC spokeswoman Rebekah Spicuglia declined to comment except to refer to a Huffington Post column written earlier by Jehmu Greene, the group's president.
In the column, Ms. Greene called the Tebow commercial an attempt to shame women who have had an abortion and to encourage women to unwisely continue risky pregnancies. "Women's health is not a game, and abortion is only part of the reproductive health equation," she wrote.
Ms. Greene went on to deny the New York Times' "would-be censors" label, saying the Federal Communications Commission and media organizations dictate what airs every day without being seen as censors. She also said there would be no point in directly countering the Tebow ad.
Gary Schneeberger, spokesman for Focus on the Family, said he was surprised by the backing that airing the commercial had received from some liberals and interested by their use of the term "pro-abortion."
"Those are wise [analysts] of the issue who recognize we have a right to present our point of view," he said. Mr. Schneeberger said Focus on the Family hoped the ad would start a dialogue on the issue, which appears to have happened.
"President Obama and Hillary Clinton have talked in the past about making abortion rare," Mr. Schneeberger said, adding that his group wants to talk about how to make that happen. "Our view is, 'let's not make it a battle.' "
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