The Deacon's Bench

Over 20 years ago — before Tim Tebow was causing a stir with a pro-life Super Bowl ad — championship players from the NFL appeared in the video below to state their advocacy for life.

The video, and more, are mentioned prominently in this column by Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman, which appears in the WaPo. The conclusion:
There is no doubt that some segments of the antiabortion movement were more nimble and consistent in reaching out to the uncommitted than the choice advocates were. In the spring of 1992, the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation began a multimillion-dollar ad campaign with a “do the right thing” message — similar to that in the Tebow spot. For five years, its “Life, What a Beautiful Choice” ads saturated media markets where public opinion on abortion was deeply divided.

NARAL Pro-Choice America followed with its “Choice for America” campaign, using symbols of freedom such as the U.S. flag to frame choice as a quintessential American value. “What’s life without choice?” the ads asked. Tracking polls in the states where the spots aired showed an increase in identification with abortion rights, but donor support lagged, and the ads ended up on the shelf.

On the other side, though, the innovation continued. 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. It wasn’t the mainstream of the antiabortion movement, but it had its appeal.

Today, all sorts of well-educated and progressive people are comfortable calling themselves pro-life. In the public eye, the term seems to encompass a broader and more moderate vision, not focused solely on what it opposes. That vision has suffered the occasional blow: Most recently, a man on the antiabortion fringe was convicted Friday of the murder, at a Kansas church, of George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions. But the Scott Roeders of the world are not adding to the movement’s base. The Super Bowl approach is doing that.

So here’s our Super Bowl strategy for the choice movement. We’d go with a 30-second spot, too. The camera focuses on one woman after another, posed in the situations of daily life: rushing out the door in the morning for work, flipping through a magazine, washing dishes, teaching a class of sixth-graders, wheeling a baby stroller. Each woman looks calmly into the camera and describes her different and successful choice: having a baby and giving it up for adoption, having an abortion, having a baby and raising it lovingly. Each one being clear that making choices isn’t easy, but that life without tough choices doesn’t exist.

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