By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN —Local pro-choice groups said they were shocked to learn that CBS had reversed a years-long ban on advocacy advertisements and would be airing an anti-abortion spot on Super Bowl Sunday next week.
The ad features Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow relaying the story of his mother's refusal of a doctor's order to have an abortion, a decision that led to the birth of Tebow. The spot's funding comes from conservative Christian group "Focus on the Family."
NARAL Pro-Choice New York spokeswoman Samantha Levine said that similarly controversial advocacy had always been turned down by networks in the past.
"We were thinking it was just another publicity stunt. Everyone was really surprised to learn that CBS decided to air it," Levine said of the TV spot. "They've reconsidered their 'no advocacy ads' policy."
But CBS said their policy hadn't changed — in fact, they said they've been airing ads on both sides of issues, such as health care and climate change, for quite a while.
“We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms on the issue," the network said in an e-mailed statement.
"We will continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups for the few remaining spots in Super Bowl XLIV.”
NARAL's Levine said that given what she characterized as short notice on CBS' policy change, it was unreasonable to think that NARAL or similar organizations would be able to pull together the millions of dollars in funding or the creative work necessary to put together a competitive ad.
"A woman will not make the decision about whether and when to have a child based on an ad she saw during the Super Bowl," said Planned Parenthood of New York City President Joan Malin.
"It's obvious that Focus on the Family's real agenda is to do all they can to outlaw abortion and restrict women from having a full range of reproductive health options."