Planned Parenthood released its counter-ad to Focus on the Family’s Tebow spot today. It features two hunky ex-athletes, one famous, one less so, but never mind, the point is clear: men who play sports can give sincere advice that allows you to make your own decisions. Bravo to dueling discourse. Seeing Al Joyner say he wants his daughter to “live in a world where everyone’s decisions are respected” is heartening. The problem I have is, who is going to watch this? By this afternoon the YouTube clip had all of 1,127 views. By Sunday, when the Super Bowl rolls around maybe it will have 10,000, maybe? In contrast, 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl. The winner here is clear. Now, I’m not saying that CBS should ban the Tebow ad (though they did reject an ad for including the line “Go to Hell” yesterday, and earlier this week said no to a gay dating ad). I agree with Jessica Grouse over at Double X who points that calling for a ban smacks of the kind of censorship progressives don’t appreciate on the other foot.
But creating grassroots spots to counter the message the Tebows will send out on Sunday won’t make things all better; the danger of Focus on the Family in this case is their money. This is big-fry stuff. Smaller fry, but quite effective, are strategies like FOF’s Option Ultrasound program, where they’re installing ultrasound machines in up to 650 crisis pregnancy centers the country over. Their research has found that viewing the embryo on a sonogram upped the likelihood that “abortion-minded women” would opt out of an abortion by 60% (over counseling alone). And maybe that decision’ll be great for them, but maybe the ultrasound created undue pressure on women already saddled with a difficult decision. The ultrasound strategy is flyers handed out outside of high schools to the power of 10. The Super Bowl ad takes such imagery to a whole new level. Women and girls, and boys and men, will see a very heartfelt show of support for LIFE and feel like there’s really no other option, not if you’re a loving person. So while YouTube ads that articulate a woman’s right to choose are hopeful, what we really need is for someone to spring for a $30 million-worth of TV time to fight them at their own game.
As Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling argued in the Post this weekend, the right has been good at big-return strategies like this for a long time. Michelman and Kissling dream up a spot that would get women thinking about both sides rather than just the one. But we won’t see that, or any other pro-choice voice, come Sunday. Is the basic difference here that the right puts money into the abortion fight and the left doesn’t? Right about now it sure seems like it.