Trusting Women to Disregard this Ad.

As I'm sure almost everyone knows by now, 2007 Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow is taking to the airwaves with his mom during the Super Bowl so that they can tell everyone about how she disregarded the advice of her doctors and risked death to give birth to the Football Messiah.

Focus on the Family, the Christian group paying for the ad, hasn't released the details of what the life-affirming message will contain, but the Gainesville Sun let us know about the tale of Tim's mama and her fifth child.

Just before her pregnancy, Pam fell into a coma after contracting amoebic dysentery, a bacteria transmitted through contaminated drinking water. During her recovery, she received a series of strong medications. And even though she discontinued the regimen when she discovered the pregnancy, doctors told Pam the fetus had been damaged.

Doctors later told Pam that her placenta had detached from the uterine wall, a condition known as placental abruption, which can deprive the fetus of oxygen and nutrients. Doctors expected a stillbirth, Pam said, and they encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy.

Instead, Pam Tebow, who with her husband was a missionary in the Philippines, had round-the-clock care, and gave birth to a healthy Tim.

Of course everyone's happy it all worked out; no one would want Tim and his mother to have died. But implicit in this message is the offensive idea that women around the country will be moved not just because both Tebows lived, but because Tim Tebow turned out to be such a special sports star. A sense of legend has arisen around Tebow so quickly and so early that he is now almost doomed to fail after a few disappointing seasons in the NFL before he becomes a politician or a used-car salesman, my football-watching friends tell me. That legend, though, must help explain why the Tebows are in this ad and not, say, the universe of humans walking around today who also were not aborted. That, and Tim Tebow's posturing for a future career in which he becomes the next James Dobson or the next Dobson-backed Senator.

It's also the same false choice presented by Republicans amid the outcry over Bristol Palin's pregnancy during the 2008 campaign, in which only one "decision" is the right one. To anti-abortion advocates, choosing means having faith in a higher power to carry you through a difficult pregnancy, or choosing not to have faith. The problem is, in this country at least, we have really inspiring narratives like this one of women beating the odds, but, thankfully, fewer immediate examples than we did in the past of women dying because they don't have access to what is a safe and legal medical procedure. But about 67,000 women a year die from unsafe abortions, mostly in the developing world, according to the WHO. The procedures are unsafe either because women try to do it themselves or someone who's not a medical professional tries to do it, or because they're in an unclean environment.

So a few years after Pam Tebow was getting constant care from an American-trained doctor in the Philippines, the Guttmacher Institute was studying the country because abortion was strictly illegal but widely practiced. The majority of women, about two-thirds, tried to induce it by themselves or through traditional healers. Unsafe abortions were one of the ten most common reason for hospitalizations, and about 10 percent of maternal deaths were due to abortion.

So, in honor of NARAL Blog for Choice day, for which the theme is Trust Women, I'm going to trust women to weigh the undeniably heartwarming tale from a football star against the death, every eight minutes, of a woman in a developing country who tries to exercise choice, too.

-- Monica Potts

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