While much of America was watching the inauguration of President Obama, BET viewers were seeing Obama’s life story turned into an anti-abortion ad.
In the 41-second ad, sponsored by catholicvote.org, a camera slowly zooms in on a fetus in a womb as these words appear on the screen: “This child’s future is a broken home. He will be abandoned by his father. His single mother will struggle to raise him. Despite the hardships he will endure this child will become the 1st African-American President.” The ad ends with a photograph of President Obama and this message: “Life: Imagine the Potential.”
Brian Burch, executive director of catholicvote.org, told PRNewswire that the ad is the first in a series that will use the same tag line. “Our message is simple: Abortion is the enemy of hope. The purpose of our new ad is to spread a message of hope about the potential of every human life, including the life of” Obama.
The ad comes amid heightened anxiety that Obama will abandon or reverse pro-life policies established by President George W. Bush.
Cardinal Francis George, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent Obama a letter asking him not to change policies that ban federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, protect federally funded health care providers who have a moral objection to abortion, and prohibit federal dollars being spent on abortion in foreign countries — the so-called Mexico City or global gag rule that Obama is expected to reverse in the coming days.
Catholic bishops and others also have expressed concern that Obama will sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify women’s right under Roe v. Wade to terminate their pregnancy and would forbid any interference with that right.
“We are committed to not only reducing abortion, but to making it unthinkable as an answer to an unintended pregnancy,” George wrote to Obama. “If your goal is to reduce abortions, that will not be achieved by involving the government in expanding and promoting abortions.”
It’s good to see pro-life bishops and ads taking a more positive, proactive approach to such a difficult and divisive issue. But as Anthony Stevens-Arroyo noted in his “Catholic America” blog for On Faith, the “FOCA paranoia” of Catholic bishops is misguided.
As for the ad, using Obama’s story to argue against abortion seems disingenuous at best, exploitive at worst. Obama’s parents were married when he was born. There’s no evidence Obama’s mother ever considered an abortion. And as my Dallas Morning News colleague Bruce Tomaso points out, “couldn’t you make the same argument about anyone? If Tim McVeigh’s mom had had an abortion, might those 168 people in Oklahoma City still be alive?”
On the other hand, if the ad prevents just one unnecessary abortion, maybe it’s worth it. Who knows? That one child could be a girl who grows up to be the first female Pope. Imagine the potential.