Football, Faith & Focus on the Family

Recently a friend on Twitter posted a story reporting Focus on the Family may spend $4 million on a Super Bowl ad buy. Word on the curb is 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s mother, Pam would be featured in the ad telling why she chose to carry Tim to term despite medical concerns for her and her baby because of drugs she was given after she contracted amoebic dysentery while serving as a missionary in the Philippines.

As you might imagine, this got people buzzing, or tweeting, if you will, like mad. Aside: thanks so much to all who participated in this conversation. It was civil and thoughtful, even if people disagreed with one another. We all walked away still liking one another. But I’ve really been thinking about it a lot since then, and not in the way you might think.

Before I get into it, I want to be clear about a few things:

  • Focus on the Family can spend their money on anything they chose, so long as it’s legal. If I can help it, they will never get one dime of mine. That’s the beauty of a free society.
  • I am an adoptive mother. I had two miscarriages followed by D&Cs before quitting fertility treatments. I understand all too well how the issue of adoption and abortion get mixed up together, often not fairly so.
  • I have not seen the ad Focus on the Family purports to air. I do not have access to Pam Tebow’s medical records, so my opinion here is based solely on news articles and interviews given by Pam Tebow on her experience. I have not seen interviews with the doctors that would validate her story or present it from a different perspective. I do not know if doctors encouraged her to abort as has been reported or if this was presented as one of several options in her medical treatment.
  • I am a Christian woman of faith who believes issues surrounding abortion are much more complicated than simply declaring yourself pro-life or pro-choice.

Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, here is the thought that keeps percolating in my mind: What would the world be like if fewer women were ever forced to make this choice?

According to Charity Water, a non-profit “bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations,” more than a BILLION people around the world don’t have decent water to drink. A BILLION people! Gross water is how Pam Tebow got sick in the first place. What if we actually made it a priority to give people the world over clean water to drink? Think of the disease that would be ended. Think of the brain power that would be available because these children who die too soon now would live and grow and produce. Think of the possibilities to the next generation if clean water was available to every man, woman and child.

Bring it closer to home? Sure. There are 46.3 million uninsured people in the US today. Pam Tebow had medical treatment before, during and after her pregnancy. If she had lived in the America at that time, or now, she would need insurance of some sort (often Medicaid for pregnant women) to get healthcare. She was put on bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy. She had the financial resources such that she did not have to provide an income for her other four children during those two months. Right now, the US poverty rate is 13.2 percent. To be considered impoverished, a family of four would make less than $22,025 annually. Does anyone think a woman in poverty can stop working for two months and still be able to feed her children?

Pam Tebow also had a college education to be able to understand what she was being told by doctors. According to a national report, “Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2007 dropped out of high school.” That’s 16 percent of people in that age bracket who did not finish and are not going to HIGH SCHOOL. What are the odds those people could make a clear decision about what a doctor is telling them, much less at a time when they are under intense emotional stress?

What if Tim Tebow had been born with special needs? According to the CDC, babies born with birth defects “have a greater chance of illness and long term disability than babies without birth defects.” I have no doubt that the Tebow family would have sought all legitimate therapies and medical treatment for Tim. They would have had the resources to do so. They would know how to maneuver the complex medical system to ensure their child was properly taken care of. Their advocacy on behalf of their child would likely be met with empathy and compassion.

Gainesville Sun

I am being totally sincere when I state, it’s wonderful life turned out so nicely for the Tebows. I’m certain they thank God every day for the health and success of their children. I would if I were them. I just think a married woman with financial means, emotional support and medical care has some luxuries in this world many women don’t.

I have come to believe that fighting about abortion is tiring and not all that productive. Everyone I know, knows where he or she stands on this issue. But wherever you land on that spectrum, what would happen if we changed the paradigm? What if we stopped waiting until the deal was done and started acting before a woman is sitting in her doctor’s office? Ultimately, if we focused our efforts on clean water, health care, poverty eradication and education, how many fewer woman would ever be faced with the gut wrenching dilemma Pam Tebow faced? Wouldn’t that be better? Can’t we all agree on that?

UPDATE: After hearing from a friend who is the father of special needs child, I feel I must clarify a point here: I also have family members and friends with special needs and can say with total certainty their lives are/were worth living. I did not mean to imply otherwise.

I simply meant that it is disingenuous to assert that the choices that Pam Tebow faced were the same choices that many women do. If we claim to be pro-life, we must be pro-the whole life. We must have social safety nets in place so that poor women don’t have to choose between the child they carry and the child/ children who are already born, and so parents who do have special needs children are offered the assistance necessary to be able to keep those children in their family.


Filed under The view from here

7 responses to “Football, Faith & Focus on the Family

  1. Amy

    Damn you and your facts and rational thinking!

  2. Kristina

    Very wise words. I like your rational…if we take care of getting everyone “basic” needs like education, food, water, access to medicine, so many of our world debates would be null and void. I appreciate how you looked at this issue.

  3. Courtney

    Well put! 🙂

  4. Awesome points. Glad to see the thoughtful discussion continues.

  5. Amen Sister! I agree, with one addition. I think we need to do a much better job in providing safe and reliable birth control to women who want it, regardless of income. I don’t think any woman should have to face such a heartbreaking decision.

    As a PS, I think we also need to do a LOT of work on our foster care/adoption system. As a woman who suffered through similar fertility issues, it was so difficult to contemplate taking on the daunting adoption system to get the child we wanted. Fortunately, we lucked out and got a healthy child on our 5th try! That’s why there is a 10 year difference between our last two kids, but we were delighted to have a happy ending.

  6. I very much appreciate this argument; well thought out and extremely valid. You remind me of a dear friend from law school, our views could not have been more widely varied, but we respect and like each other and had rational conversations about controversial issues often. Her point mirrored yours almost exactly – she said, “I do not like abortion, but I refuse to advocate it’s removal as an option until we do a MUCH better job in taking care of women and the issues that lead to that choice in the first place.”
    Thanks for sharing, very well said. 🙂

  7. David

    Kerri, I have no doubt that the issues you bring up are true for the developing world. Many of the people who feel strongly about preventing abortion are fighting for the very things you mention, like clean water, anti-poverty, etc.

    The picture is not so clear for the developed world, where access to clean water and good hospitals (and contraceptives!) is within reach. I don’t want to debate the intricacies of health insurance, etc – more to state that the vast majority of abortions in the USA (and the UK, where I live) are lifestyle choices. That’s what gets folks like me worked up – and the number of repeat abortions (something like 20% at least for the UK) is alarmingly high.

    Also, as a father of a special-needs kid I would state that his life is a life worth living and preserving even if he didn’t have access to the best therapies, etc. The abortion rate in the US and UK for down syndrome is around 92% – both places where a special needs child has rights granted by law and support locally. The fact that 92% of people choose to terminate their unborn children tells me that the problem is the human heart, not the environment the child will be born into.

    My .02.