EcoMeme: Super Bowl Ad Controversy

landshark stadium

National Super Bowl ads have been universally fun or relatable through the years, making up for their glib materialism with some entertainment value and giving fans of pop culture but not the sport a reason to watch. Cute frogs croaked for beer (“Bud-wei-ser!”) and babies sang off-key (eTrade) in memorable campaigns.

But this year, CBS and the Super Bowl – which drew more than 95 million viewers in 2009 – are kicking up political dust allowing an anti-abortion ad in the national broadcast. The first religious-political ad CBS has approved to air in the entire history of the Super Bowl hails from the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family.

It features Pam Tebow, who recounts her decision to carry a pregnancy to term, against the advice of doctors who feared for her life and recommended an abortion. By her side is thankful son Tim Tebow, Florida Gators quarterback and Heisman trophy winner. The privilege of airing the ad cost Focus on the Family an estimated $2.5 million media buy, plus more to produce it.

Debate has been raging in the blogosphere. Is Tebow too controversial to get drafted now? What’s appropriate for broadcast during the Super Bowl? Should American women have the right to choose? And with teen pregnancy and teen abortions on the rise, shouldn’t we be focused on improving sex education, first?

No matter where you stand on such matters, or whether you’re one of more than 35 million women over the age of 18 likely to watch the Super Bowl this year (according to Nielsen research), it’s hard not to think of the positive human or environmental impact that a couple million dollars could have made, if redirected to help the already-born children of Haiti, for example.

Finally, there’s another question the anti-abortion movement raises, constantly, and again with this ad: should women be encouraged to have kids at all costs, when overpopulation is wreaking havoc in the form of air, water and noise pollution, loss of species and habitat, and a low life expectancy for humans where you find the fastest growing populations?


“Although people no longer talk about a catastrophic ‘population bomb,’ world population continues to grow. Unfortunately, the most affected countries are also the ones least able to support more people.” – Interactive feature on the environmental and social costs of over-population at National Geographic

“Do we really want to start seeing anti-abortion”¦messages on Super Bowl Sunday? Do you know what [this sports blogger] doesn’t want to see? “˜Issue-oriented’ ads. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. The only issue I want to deal with is replenishing the queso dip. Are you listening Tim Tebow?” – A blog post by Jeff Schulz for Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Tebow and his mom’s Super Bowl ad”¦will tell America how [Ms. Tebow] was young and not sure she wanted a baby, but then she had Tim who’s now a star about to make gobs and gobs of money… Ergo, you’d be crazy to consider an abortion, ladies, and gents and those not of child-bearing age, don’t even think about supporting a woman’s right to choose, because how could you choose not to gestate and give life to a person as successful and handsome as Tim Tebow?” – A blog post by Elizabeth Gettelman for Mother Jones


An Associated Press article about Pepsi’s decision not to advertise in the Super Bowl 2010, unrelated to Tebow

A conservative opinion-editorial piece by Jan Crawford for CBS News online about her reaction to the network’s decision to air a pro-life, or anti-choice ad during the Super Bowl 2010

A blog maintained by researcher Richard Heinberg that frequently discusses the impact of overpopulation on the environment and related topics, a website with scientific and historical data on overpopulation, maintained by researchers and activists who seek to improve the environment by curbing overpopulation

A news feature by Nena Carpenter for Helium on the links between various environmental issues and overpopulation

“It appears that Americans have completely forgotten about the profoundly dangerous relationships between overpopulation, resource depletion, environmental degradation, and our standard of living.” – A letter to the editor of Chicago’s Daily Herald by Jim Peterson

This is the latest installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, trends and tech highlights by Lora Kolodny.

Image: Landshark Stadium, where Superbowl 2010 will be played, by Chris Acuña