The XX Factor

Choice: Beautiful, But Tough To Advertise

Emily B ., Rachael , I’m not very comfortable with the idea of soft-focus ads either for or against choice. Although I still agree with Jess that the Tebow ad isn’t the end of the world, I really think this is one of the few things that just can’t be marketed-and to the extent that it can, the powerful positive imagery is nearly all on the side of “life.” I am as uncomfortable as Will Saletan about an ad advising women to go against their doctor’s advice and carry a pregnancy to term that might kill them. I can imagine, too, many situations in which a woman might be pressured to do just that. It’s wonderful that the Tebow’s situation worked out as it did, but I am sure that most of us know people who hoped for a similar miracle and didn’t get it.

So yes, Rachael, your ad would be an improvement. Happy people, here because their mothers chose life-who could argue with that? You would, I imagine, skip the flip side-unhappy people, say, or the kid reduced to being a lookout for the corner dealer because his mom can’t or didn’t buy him anything to eat today, or anyone whose quality of life might be aesthetically less-than-appealing. And that’s fine-because no one wants to actually sell abortion. But I’d argue that your ad is disingenuous-because you’re selling babies, not a world where abortion is illegal. An honest ad for that would include babies, sure, but it would also feature graveyards and clothes hangers. The alternative to safe, legal abortion isn’t safe, happy families. It’s much more complicated than that.

I could envision an ad to counter the Tebow ad-one featuring a different family in a different world, one where that Tebow ad and others like it have been successful, and Roe v. Wade not just overturned but crushed in many parts of the country. A lineup of four kids, perhaps, with the oldest one speaking. “Our dad says our mom was a wonderful woman,” she says. “She was pregnant, and there were problems, and some doctors told her that having the baby might kill her. But some doctors disagreed, and in our state, she didn’t have any choice. She hoped she’d be one of the lucky ones, but she wasn’t. We miss her.” That’s an ad I hope we never see.

Photograph of Tim Tebow by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.