Pro-choice women's groups are rallying their supporters to convince CBS, the NFL, and Super Bowl advertisers to stand against the "anti-choice" Super Bowl ad that will feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mother.
"CBS's recent decision to air an anti-choice advertisement ad during Super Bowl XLIV was outrageous," stated the Women's Media Center in a letter to potential petition signers.
"Even worse is the network's about face from its own policy of rejecting controversial Super Bowl ads," it added. "The Women's Media Center, and organizations dedicated to reproductive rights, tolerance, and social justice, are urging the network to immediately cancel this ad."
Earlier this month, Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family announced its intent to broadcast its first Super Bowl ad during CBS Sports' coverage of the game at Dolphin Stadium in South Florida.
The 30-second spot from the international family-help organization will feature Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, who will share a personal story centered on the theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."
"The Tebows said they agreed to appear in the commercial because the issue of life is one they feel very strongly about," Focus on the Family reported.
Though the exact content of the ad has not been revealed, many are speculating that story shared will be about Pam Tebow's refusal to have an abortion while she was pregnant with Tim despite having suffered from a life-threatening infection at the time.
"Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive," commented Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.
Less than a week after Focus on the Family's announcement, CBS officials gave initial approval for the ad, suggesting that the commercial is in line with its policy and steers clear from a "current controversial issue of public importance" such as abortion, which Focus on the Family's "culture action" arm is widely known for being strongly and vocally opposed to.
Though Focus on the Family works to strengthen, defend and celebrate the institution of the traditional family, the organization is best known for the efforts of Focus on the Family Action, which works to protect life, marriage, and religious liberties.
As a separate legal organization, Focus Action works to inform, inspire and rally pro-family people when it comes to the "moral, cultural and political issues that threaten our nation."
Focus on the Family, on the other hand, "is about nurturing that desire [to help families thrive] and strengthening families by empowering them with the tools they need to live lives rooted in morals and values."
Despite the distinction, groups such as the Women's Media Center are sending their complaints and urging others to do the same, asserting that any advertising promoting Focus on the Family's agenda should be refused.
"Focus on the Family has waged war on non-traditional families, tried its hand at race baiting during the 2008 election, and is now attempting to use the Super Bowl to further ramp up the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding reproductive rights," they claim in a letter to CBS's board and executives, the NFL, and Super Bowl advertisers.
"By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will alienate viewers and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers," they add. "The decision to air this ad would be ethically, economically and politically disastrous for CBS."
According to the Women's Media Center, the content of Focus on the Family's 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."
Though the feminist group has yet to see the commercial, it claimed that the ad "is surrealistic in its argument that a woman who chooses not to have a child may be depriving the Super Bowl of a football player."
"It uses one family's story to dictate morality to the American public, and encourages young women to disregard medical advice, putting their lives at risk," it added.
After noting CBS's well-documented history of prohibiting advocacy ads it deems controversial – including its rejection ads from organizations such as PETA, MoveOn.org, United Church of Christ, "and even ones that carry only an 'implicit' endorsement for a side in a public debate" – as well as the "anti-abortion vitriol" that has resulted in escalated violence against reproductive health service providers and their patients, including the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller during a Sunday morning service at his church, the group expressed hope that CBS would not to be associated with "this brand of un-American hate."
"CBS executives have indicated in the past that they would not air Super Bowl ads where 'substantial elements of the community (are) in opposition to one another,'" the letter adds, citing from CBS's well-known policy.
"Women comprise 40% of Super Bowl viewers. If CBS airs this ad, they will be throwing these women under the bus," they concluded.
Amid concerns, a network spokesman, Dana McClintock, has told the press that CBS would ensure that any issue-oriented ad was "appropriate for air."
Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, meanwhile insisted that there's "nothing political and controversial about it (the ad)."
"When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about," he told The Associated Press.
"We're trying to celebrate families," he added.
This year's Super Bowl, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints, will kick off at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7.
Super Bowl broadcasts are typically viewed by over 90 million people each year.