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Anti-Abortion Candidate want to show pro-life commercials at Superbowl 2012

Anti-abortion activists are hoping to show aborted fetuses during the Super Bowl.




The small group behind the effort may be far from raising the millions required to buy an ad spot, but activist Missy Smith made a significant step towards that goal this election cycle.

By running for D.C. delegate during the midterms, she took advantage of federal rules that prevent broadcasters from censoring election ads unless they defame others or violate copyright.

Gory abortion images hit the primetime airwaves in the D.C.-metro area, prefaced by warnings from the networks forced to air them. Smith believes the ads will change hearts and minds.

"Until America sees abortion, America will not reject abortion," she argued.

But others, including some anti-abortion activists, question their effectiveness.

Smith lost her campaign for D.C. delegate, but for her the important part was running a $66,000 campaign that ran 225 graphic ads.

"Our ultimate goal is to make child killing illegal," she said.

She plans to run again in 2012 and is recruiting candidates for each of the 25 top media markets.

If she and her dozen supporters recruit a presidential candidate, they hope to get an ad into the Super Bowl.

Unlike previous attempts to insert politics into the well-watched sporting event, this tactic would bind the network into airing it.

"We have explored the outer edge of this law," said anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who recruited Smith to run.

Terry, who has run for office in the past, came up with the idea to get around the fact that television networks are free to reject advertising that they believe is distasteful.

Television stations frequently censor ads, such as those opposing McDonald's and Target and backing marijuana legalization, to avoid ruffling feathers.

"We gave an example to the country that this is what can be done," he said. "Once people see they can do this, there's going to be an avalanche of money."

Terry came to prominence in the 1980s as the head of Operation Rescue, which pushed the limits of civil disobedience to block access to abortion clinics. His brash methods have isolated many of his peers over the years, including his former group.

This latest tactic is no less controversial.

Even viewers who agree with the message have filed FCC complaints against the ads due to their graphic nature.

"You have children watching," Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, said. "No one is looking to censor what these candidates have to say. At the same time, there are limits."

McGehee, whose group enforces campaign and media laws, said Smith's efforts could reignite a legal debate over the limits of decency in election ads.

In the early 1990s, the FCC and federal courts sided in favor of activist candidates running gory abortion images, saying they did not qualify as indecent.

Legal concerns aside, McGehee said the tactic seems to accomplish the activists' goal of sparking a debate.

"The shocking nature of it stimulates the discussion," she said.

But other anti-abortion groups have avoided the tactic out of fear of isolating their supporters.

In the past, complaints filed with regulators have come equally from supporters and opponents of legalized abortion.

When James Dobson's Focus on the Family unveiled plans to air an anti-abortion ad in this year's super bowl, CBS tried to quell complaints by vowing to screen the ad for its appropriateness.

Whether an activist group benefits from pushing the envelope in this way remains up for debate.

Susan B. Anthony List, which helps elect anti-abortion candidates, cited Smith's lack of viability for denying her support.

"There is an ADD involved in trying to shock, and there is a lot of patience and persistence involved in people who have worked at winning elections," President Marjorie Dannenfelser said.

The anti-abortion leader uses graphic pictures to sway people, but said she believes that they work better in context and in personal conversations.

"It is an important thing to know how and when to do it," Dannenfelser said. "It certainly can shock the conscience, and it has. But is it a good voting tactic, I don't know."

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Tags: abortion, focus on the family, media, politics
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