Fox’s network has opted not to air an awareness campaign during the Super Bowl featuring people who survived botched abortions.
The organization behind the ad, Faces of Choice, said it had been working unsuccessfully with Fox’s legal department since July and had been “given the runaround for six months,” receiving no definitive answer from the network.
“If you don’t want to run it, then give us the dignity of response and give us a reason why,” Lyric Gillett, 28, founder and director of Faces of Choice, said in an interview. She first started working on the idea for the organization when she was in college.
Fox blamed a lack of ad space. “Super Bowl LIV sold out at a record pace this year, and unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate Faces of Choice and other advertisers,” a representative from Fox Corporation told the Washington Examiner.
The 30-second, black-and-white ad shows people looking directly at the camera, asking viewers, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me that I shouldn’t be alive?” and “Can you tell me that I didn’t deserve to survive?”
The video does not use the word “abortion” but instead uses the word “choice,” a thinly veiled reference to how the abortion rights movement uses the term “pro-choice” to define its position on the issue.
The exchange shows Faces of Choice first reached out to Fox in July, and it was told that there wasn’t a way to predict how long the approval would take, so it was important to start early. Gillett sent the script in late August, and Fox asked for more information about the organization.
In early September, Gillett said her organization “focuses on a demographic of survivors that has gone largely unnoticed: individuals who were aborted but survived.” There were occasional emails after that from Fox saying it didn’t have enough information about the organization, and so, Gillett provided more details and built out the group’s website.
Faces of Choice followed up but got no response. Then, they were told in November that “we are not in a sellout situation.” Four days later, Faces of Choice learned from news reports that Super Bowl ads had sold out. However, they learned it was important to seek clearance for its ad because then it would be able to jump into an open slot should any advertisers drop out. Fox said in mid-December that it would review the information submitted and get back to Faces of Choice. Gillett sent an email to Fox in mid-December, saying she felt they had been “strung along since October” and expressed frustration about the lack of response.
Fox finally said in January that it would only be reviewing the ad if more slots opened up. It was widely reported that Fox added more advertising than it had initially set aside in order to accommodate demand.
In the past, some networks who have run the Super Bowl have banned “advocacy” commercials, but this year’s championship game in Miami between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers doesn’t appear to have that policy.
Fox will be running a new Super Bowl ad addressing police shootings of black people from the NFL’s Inspire Change Initiative, which was created to help athletes address social justice causes.
It’s also airing a campaign ad by Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg about gun violence, and President Trump is also running two 30-second ads touting the achievements of his first term in office.
The Super Bowl averages more than 100 million viewers every year and is the biggest advertising day of the year, with 30-second spots costing $5.6 million. Gillett said Faces of Choice had a high-profile person willing to assist with fundraising to pay for the slot.
“We never received one single comment about the content,” Gillett said. “They didn’t say, ‘We don’t do advocacy.'”
This week, the organization teamed up with the Christian group My Faith Votes to launch an online petition asking supporters to contact the head of Fox’s legal department. As of Friday morning, 39,488 people had signed the petition, and 28,713 had sent 113,520 emails about it.
The latest ad wouldn’t have been the first on abortion for the Super Bowl. In 2010, then-football player Tim Tebow appeared in an ad from the Christian organization Focus on the Family in which his mother, Pam, talked about her “miracle baby” who “almost didn’t make it into this world.” The ad drew outrage because it encouraged viewers to look up a video where Pam shared that doctors advised to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Tebow because she got amoebic dysentery during a missionary trip to the Philippines.
The latest ad, featuring people who survived an abortion attempt, is intended to build support for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would have doctors take babies that survive abortions to a hospital or otherwise face criminal penalties. Democrats have said the bill isn’t necessary because infanticide is already illegal. They also worry the bill would limit what doctors could do after a baby is born with a grave medical condition and either wouldn’t live past birth or wouldn’t survive long.
A two-minute version of the ad aired for the first time last week during the March for Life, an annual rally protesting abortion, in Washington, D.C. That version refers to “D+C abortion,” “vacuum aspiration,” and “saline-infused abortion.”
“These are actual human beings who survived abortion procedures. … ‘Choice’ is not merely a word. ‘Choice’ is a person,” says the ad, which features 14 different people.
“Every humanitarian civil rights movement has been centered around the voices of survivors,” Gillett said. “What this does is take a nebulous idea and turn it into something human. When you say that you are pro-choice, I want you to see the eyes of survivors … You are telling survivors you disagree with their survival.”