Update on the Tebow ad

Since I posted about the Tim Tebow anti-choice Scrutinize Your Focus on the Family ad that is scheduled to air during the Super Bowl, I have found out some more disturbing information.

Mrs. Tebow claims that she was told to get an abortion while pregnant in the Philippines, where she and her husband do missionary work. In fact, they run an orphanage there. But, abortion is and has been illegal in the Philippines. Making abortion illegal does not reduce abortions. It just makes them more deadly.

According to this UN Humanitarian Affairs report:

there are an estimated 560,000 cases of induced abortions per year, resulting in some 90,000 women being hospitalised for post-abortion care; and about 1,000 deaths a year in the island nation.

Most of these women are already mothers. Their children are much more likely to die before the age of 12 without a mother. It also makes them more likely to need to go to an orphanage. Like the one the Tebows run, out of the kindness of their Christian hearts.

But, it is the Christian religion* that is contributing to the orphan problem in the Philippines. According to this 2006 Guttmacher report (pdf) on Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in the Philippines:

At the same time, weak government support for modern contraception and the insistence of the Catholic Church on natural family planning methods contribute to low levels of modern contraceptive use and persistent reliance on less effective methods. Many women use no family planning method at all.

I am all about the middle ground on this issue. I don’t have a problem, like some reproductive rights activists do, with saying I want abortion to be rare. I know it’s hard to discuss something with nuance, but that doesn’t necessarily say it’s because it’s an evil procedure. Unintended pregnancy is the problem. No one wants to be in that situation. The only way to prevent it, experts say in so many places I won’t even bother to link it, is by increasing the autonomy of the women in the community: access to affordable effective contraception and abortion without shame, education, microloans, and the like.

Making abortion illegal and letting them die, bleeding in the hallways of hospitals or in their beds, surrounding by their surviving children, is not pro-life. How can members of the same party who houses Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, also align themselves with groups like Focus on the Family? The supporters of this ad, Focus on the Family and their socially conservative hardline choir, think talking about the poor as breeding stray animals who don’t know any better with unconcealed contempt is compatible with calling the birth control and the IUD “a chemical assault and destruction of some unborn?”.

Let’s reduce abortions, spontaneous or medical. Let’s reduce death. Let’s reduce the number of orphaned children. Let’s prevent unintended and intended pregnancy losses. Effective, affordable contraception is the best way to do this.

*I am not anti Christianity, nor anti all Christians. My family is all quite religious, most of them practicing that religion as pro-life, socially conservative Presbyterians. We don’t see eye to eye on this issue. I was tipped off about the disconnect between Mrs. Tebow’s claims and the reality of reproductive care and maternal mortality by someone who went to Catholic school with my husband. I am off to a celebration of a Catholic christening today of a boy at whose birth I was the doula.

Religion, to me, is personal. That is why I support conscience clauses for health care practitioners, and (edited to correct major typo!) STRONGLY OPPOSE one-child only laws, and forced abortions or forced sterilizations. But, when it comes to maternal mortality and public health, I don’t think religion has a place in the discussion. Any group that would worship a god that thinks maternal mortality isn’t a higher priority than their rules about sex and reproduction isn’t someone I want at the table. They can preach to their choir all they want, and people can choose to observe in the way that is right between them and their deity(ies) of choice, or lack thereof.


Go to Emily’s List and sign their petition. This is what I wrote in the comment section:

1000 women died in the Philippines (where Tim Tebow was born, and his family does missionary work) in 2008 alone due to the unavailability of safe, legal abortion.

How many of the orphans at the Tebow’s orphanage had moms who died from the lack of contraception and legal, safe abortion there?

This is not something worth breaking your non controversy Super Bowl ad over.


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10 responses to “Update on the Tebow ad

  1. Margaret

    Hello! I am a regular reader of your blog. I love your perspective and love that you are so supportive of women and natural birth and are glad there are women like you becoming a doctor.

    My training and work is in public health, so I just had to comment on this blog post because you brought up prevention. I agree prevention of unwanted pregnancies is important, however public health and aid organizations have a history of NOT providing culturally sensitive and relevant care in regards to family planning abroad. (Well, here in the US too, I would argue).

    Many aid organizations just want to throw contraceptives at women in an effort to prevent pregnancies. Some women will take them, but for many these may not be acceptable for religious or cultural reasons, and oftentimes contraceptives go to waste. As a Catholic who follows the Church’s teachings on such matters, I can understand why some will not take them.

    Modern natural family planning options like the symptothermal method are very effective when used correctly, however I don’t often hear of aid organizations who want to teach them. Indeed, its difficult to find OB/Gyns in the US who are familiar with the methods and have even looked at any research on them. Additionally, they are inexpensive for the users to continue using. I’m not saying this is an acceptable option for every couple, but I wish more aid organizations would be open to promoting family planning options like these that would be more acceptable and culturally sensitive to the population instead of just wishing people would change their religious beliefs.

    Anyway, thats my little contribution to the conversation.

    • MomTFH

      Thanks for sharing.

      I think any intervention or public health work should be culturally sensitive. If you read the Guttmacher report, it was written with shareholders in the Philippines.

      I think the symptothermal method, aka fertility awareness method or natural family planning can be effective for some people. However, that is already being promoted in the Philippines, and it is not working. It was mentioned in the UN article as the main method of birth control promoted by the government. It also requires the cooperation of the male partner, which is not always possible.

      No one should be forced into using any birth control that they are not comfortable with. However, in the United States, more than 80% of practicing Catholic women use birth control other than the fertility awareness method. Women in countries with higher rates of poverty and higher birth rates should be given at least the same options as women in countries with higher standards of living and lower birth rates.

      According to the Guttmacher report, 90% of the 450,000 women who have illegal abortions yearly in the Philippines every year consider themselves to be Catholic. Shouldn’t we give them the choice of contraception, rather than abortion, and let them decide if it jives with their own observance of Catholocism?

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  3. Blue Jean

    Hi, MoMTH,

    Here from Shakesville. Thanks for the blog entry!

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  6. H.Giles

    “Religion, to me, is personal. That is why I support conscience clauses for health care practitioners, and one-child only laws, and forced abortions or forced sterilizations. ”

    I am appalled that you can believe both those sentences are true. You can not pretend that 1) You believe people should be free to act according to their conscience, and 2) Everyone should be forced to adopt your moral beliefs.

    This isn’t even touching on the contradiction between accusing Focus On the Family of “talking about the poor as breeding stray animals who don’t know any better” while being guilty of talking about all people as “breeding stray animals” who can not stop themselves or make decisions on their own and need forced sterilizations and abortions.

    I sincerely hope that this is a typo of some sort. If it is not, I can only say that I am extremely disappointed.

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