Celebrate Insensitivity. Celebrate Hyperbole.

Celebrate Insensitivity. Celebrate Hyperbole. The Tim Tebow Superbowl Ad

Conflicting accounts, a 20 year gap, and an ulterior motive don?t make for a great medical historian.


Tim Tebow and his mother Pam were the subjects of a much anticipated Superbowl Ad. In it, his mother told the story of getting ameobic dysentery and being treated for it while pregnant. In the aftermath, she claims, she was told by doctors to have an abortion due to the drugs? potential to cause birth defects. She also claims that she developed a ?severe? abruption and was told to have an abortion for that as well.

In one version of the story, floating around the internet, she is reported to have taken substantial amounts of the drug and doctors advised abortion because of birth defects. In another, it is claimed she took one pill, was inspired by God to read the package insert which told her of the potential for birth defects. She soldiered on through ameobic dysentery without them. Somewhere in all of this is the claim that dysentery put her in a coma. The details of the alleged abruption are unclear. Their Focus on the Family follow up video mentions a large clot at delivery. When and if the clot was discovered before birth is not known, at this writing.

She refused abortion, endured untreated disease, risked her life, and/or carried a deformed baby. Take your pick. Tim was born and the rest is (football) history.

But does the story hold water, holy or not?

The drug Mrs. Tebow took was undoubtedly Flagyl (Metronidazole) or one of its close cousins. This is a drug that was available at the time that was widely used for amoebic dysentery. Blood thinning is one of its side effects which could explain the development of the abruption.


Flagyl caused cancer in the enormous doses given to lab animals, during its development. As a society, we are much more forgiving of dangerous experimentation on lab animal than pregnant women. So, the norm of that day was to require generic birth defect warnings on any drugs that caused cancer, in lab animals. The same properties that cause cancer can also cause birth defects. Still, no such thing was ever found with Flagyl. In fact, years later, its safety in pregnancy was established.

It is hard to imagine a doctor advising an abortion based on such little risk. This event took place a long, long time ago in a place far far away. But, in this country in this time the pregnancy would be monitored by ultrasound for clear proof of abnormalities. If and when they occurred, the mom would be presented with abortion as a possibility, but also given information on the defect and resources for help raising a child with those challenges.


An abruption is when the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus. Abruption can lead to abortion, simply because the pregnancy aborts itself. The blood irritates the uterine lining and can trigger preterm labor. Placenta can detach to such a degree that the baby dies and/or both or at risk due to excessive blood loss.

But, drugs can be used to calm the uterus and prolong the pregnancy and neonatologists can stabilize preterm infants, if those fail. If an underlying blood clotting disorder is involved, drugs can be given for this as well.

The placenta has twice the capacity it needs to grow the baby to term. So, even very inadequate, damaged, partially detached placentas can result in perfectly healthy babies. Lastly, the mother?s blood supply increases dramatically during pregnancy. This decreases the risk of bleeding to death for the mother. Pregnancy is also a state in which the blood clots more readily than normal.

Abruption is associated with amniotic fluid embolism ? a very rare, but highly deadly pregnancy complication. But, 50% of cases don?t have it. There is no direct treatment for it. The response is to support basic cardiovascular function and fight against the shock the embolism causes. Abruption is also associated with DIC again a rare but potentially deadly, but treatable blood clotting disorder. The most common reason for maternal death associated with abruption is massive blood loss which can be treated with blood.

Although the vast majority of moms survive, they still risk serious damage due to the blood loss and/or shock these problems cause. They can be left with kidney damage, damage to their hormonal systems (Sheehan?s syndrome), or others. But again, these are rare.

But most importantly, all these problems can occur in any pregnancy. The ones with problems identified early on just have a higher chance. Pregnancy, even a ?normal? pregnancy is one of the riskiest things most young women do. And being born is one of the riskiest things all babies do. That?s why we do this in a hospital.


None of the medical scenarios alleged in or around the Tebow ads would have led to a doctor advising abortion. Unless and until the mother or baby presents with one of the immediately life-threatening emergencies, listed in the last paragraphs above, medicine takes a wait-and-see approach.

The risk of carrying a drug deformed child to the mother is about zero. The risk that Mrs. Tebow?s child was deformed by the drugs she took was also about zero. The chance that a doctor advised an abortion for the possibility that a drug that causes cancer in lab rates when taken in massive doses might mean that her child might have deformities --- uuhhh that one?s about zero too.

In abruption, if the worst happens, then measures are taken to quickly end the pregnancy by c-section. If a mother refused, she and her baby would both be at high risk of death. There isn?t a way for her to sacrifice herself for her baby, since, her body is quite literally The Mothership here. Needless to say, there?s no babies growing in dead mothers. The mother?s risk of death or harm is less than the baby?s when ending the pregnancy during a crisis. But, without ending it, mom and baby?s chances are both about the same ? very, very bad. But, it is with the help from our friends from neonatology, that the pregnancy is ended, not abortion.

Complicated pregnancies are sometimes ended early because the baby has a better chance in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit than in the womb. Any additional risks to the mother of c-section are insignificant.

Those doctors and nurse who do not make the same effort to save the baby in an emergency are guilty of the worst malpractice, and violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act which mentions the unborn child specifically. They should face a host of actions by state licensing boards and local authorities, as well.

It is not now, nor has it ever been normal to advise women to have abortions upon discovery of an abruption during the pregnancy, nor during a crisis.


The most offensive, insensitive parts were not in the ad itself. In the follow-up material on Focus on the Family website, the mother proclaims her Timmie is special (don?t all moms feel that way about their kids), that he was sooo special to God because he was spared death in utero.

So, that means the ones that don?t make are what? Do-overs?! Geez, just when a grieving mom thought that seeing babies everywhere and dealing with those ?comforting? comments that start with the words ?at least?.? were the worse things she had to deal with. Now, she has to be told that her lost child must have been destined to be a serial killer, or maybe just a slacker, like a doctor or an engineer, but certainly not a vital citizen, like a football player. At least she has an answer to that heartbreaking question ? why? Because her child wasn?t special, didn?t have a future, and well, Jesus really tried to love her, but moved on to someone better.

As many others have reported, its anti-abortion theme was so subtle that it would be missed without the hype. But, to the scores of women who have lost a child the message came through loud and clear.










Rate this article: (1=lowest, 5=highest) 1    2    3    4    5   

Copyright 2010 estronaut.com


The Athletic Triad

Prevalence of Miscarriage

Can Miscarriage be Prevented?

How would you feel about using a drug for something that has not been approved by the FDA?

Post Comments
Read Comments

a listing of scientific articles and texts used.

ARCHIVE (complete)