Is this commercial ‘pro-life’?

Pro-life blogs have been abuzz recently with praise for this Pampers commercial (you can go here for an example). The shared sentiment seems to be that Pampers has made a strong pro-life statement, with some bloggers going so far as to urge readers to bedeck their babies’ behinds in nothing but Pampers from now on. But is the commercial really anti-choice?

Personally, I can’t see much that’s offensive about it, apart from the implication that a woman getting married while pregnant didn’t plan her pregnancy and the use of the unhelpful terminology ‘special needs’. And there are bits of it that are kind of sweet (the American-consumer saccharine overload aside). But I’m very curious what others think. Is Pampers using this commercial to make a subtle anti-choice statement? Or is this just another instance of people who are ‘pro-life’ assuming that those of us who think abortion should be legal must hate babies?

20 thoughts on “Is this commercial ‘pro-life’?

  1. I’d say it is at least over toward the pro-lifers if it is referring to the fetus at an early stage as a baby. I’m not completely sure it is, but it is at least close.

  2. Hmmm. . .that’s interesting, JJ. I guess I wasn’t interpreting it as saying that the fetus was itself a baby. I was thinking that the early ultrasound picture was mean to be evocative of the mention of ‘planned’ babies (though that’s perhaps problematic in its own right). But now I’m not so sure.

  3. The “Every Baby is a little miracle” bit is likely intended as mild pandering to prolifers, given that their montage of “babies” includes fetuses.

  4. The first images lead me to find this commercial offensively anti-abortion.

    “Look, the baby wasn’t planned but she’s doing the right thing and marrying the guy.” They don’t show the groom. They show the bride, pregnant, but doing “the right thing.”

    Every one seems pretty well-off, too.

  5. I don’t consider it to be anti-abortion, per se. Pampers’ concern, after all, is to be appealing to people who have babies. Corporations rarely risk losing customers to make a controversial political statement. As a mass communications professional, the message I perceive is, “Every type of baby is great – we don’t care how s/he got here. We love all babies and all babies should wear our diapers.”

    People tend to look at information expecting to see it address what is important to them. If abortion is a vital issue in one’s mind, any image of a fetus would probably prompt a connection in that person’s mind. People do this all the time when looking at religious texts, for example. Liberals, fundamentalists, and every group in between all are able to find what they consider truth in the Christian Bible, the Vedas of Hinduism, the Koran, etc.

  6. 1) I think pro choice folks could make a valuable statement by embracing
    (if one can or wants to do that to an advertisement) the commercial. After all, there is nothing against being pro choice and believing that “every baby is a little miracle to celebrate, support and protect.”

    2) There is more diversity of families than one usually sees in TV in the US. Wouldn’t it be nice to see, “whether she has one mommy or two mommies” included in the list.

  7. It seems difficult to simultaneously allow that there’s something somehow problematic about planning a birth while maintaining the position that,say, we should expand access to prenatal care to women currently unable to afford it (as I bet most folks here, including myself, believe).

    It would be strange to argue that prenatal health care is worth guaranteeing without also believing that receiving that care is valuable by virtue of the fact that it improves health outcomes. Yet in order to receive prenatal care, one has to have some kind of knowledge of one’s own pregnancy and an intention to bring the pregnancy to term. Which amounts to a plan.

    Presumably if you’re the sort who is willing and able to go in for a sonogram and amnio, you are also the sort who is thinking about diapers in their future, which is why Pampers is interested in creating warm and fuzzy associations between thoughts of your pregnancy and their brand.

    Ultimately this issue seems like an instance of Poe’s law: anti-choice position is so incoherent that you can’t depict sonograms or babies in an advertisement without at least one choice opponent seizing it as vindication of their views.

  8. I don’t see anything pro-life here–at least, not without some creative interpretation.

  9. Two things in addition to the presentation of the foetus as a baby irk me about this advert:
    i) the presentation of the somewhat older mother as having a child ’10 yrs late’ (couldn’t it be right on time, for her?).
    ii) the visual representation of learning two languages by having parents of different race (people of different races can speak the same language, doh!).

    As Nicole #6 says, people probably pick up on things that are important to them, so perhaps others don’t find these implicit messages irksome at all – or even there to be found!

    One thing I do like about it is the attention to adoptive families.

  10. yep, I think agree, mostly, with everyone. it only seems anti-choice if you assume that pro-choice = baby-hater. I think most anti-choice people do make that assumption, so it’s not surprising they take this as ‘on their side’. but I, for one, am pro-choice and I like babies. (but I still hate pampers; terrible for the environment!)

  11. We just have the one example of someone giving an anti-abortion reading of this, so I’m a bit hesitant to speculate of everyone who reads this as anti-abortion. But assume it’s representative. The reading is based on the way the commercial `undermines’ six `pro-abortion lies’. As a philosopher, I’d quibble with the use of `lies’ here — none of the six involve straight-up descriptive statements, but rather involve what Williams called `thick’ ethical terms, with both descriptive and evaluative aspects, and so can’t be straightforwardly true or false. So let’s refine the reading by saying that the commercial rejects six pro-choice value judgments.

    I’d agree that the commercial rejects these value judgments. But I don’t think any is characteristically pro-choice. The reading seems to rely on some deep misperceptions of pro-choicers, especially pro-choice feminists. I won’t speculate as to whether these misperceptions of pro-choicers are common among anti-abortion folks.

  12. I really don’t see what’s pro-life about it. I took the image of the fetus at the start as linked with the idea of a ‘planned’ – well-organized, anticipated, blah blah – pregnancy.

    I am surprised no one has mentioned the heteronormativity yet. They seem to be eager to include everything but queer mothering.

    But history changes slowly, and frankly I like the ad. I think its earnest though incomplete attempt at inclusivity is sweet. Look, if you’re having an abortion, you don’t need their product obviously. So they are talking to mothers and expectant mothers. I just don’t see how the fact that some pregnant women are not expectant mothers is relevant.

  13. Oh, I forgot to add: Major vomit to the whole language of ‘miracles’. But nothing unexpected in that.

  14. I love this ad.
    I’m strongly pro-choice but nothing in this ad seems anti-abortion to me.
    Even the fetus in the ultrasound at the beginning seems quite far along. Someone pro-choice need not think a far-along fetus has any lower status than a baby.

  15. I agree with everyone who has said that it isn’t pro-life. This is a bit like when they got all excited about the “a person’s a person, no matter how small” line from Horton Hears a Who, even though Seuss and his widow were both upset about the line being used by pro-life groups.

  16. I just saw this commercial and actually ‘googled’ is papmpers pro-life….I got your website. I believe it is very pro-life.

  17. Odd that using the word baby in conjunction with a picture of a fetus is cause for offense to some. “Baby” is non-specific in terms of developmental stage. An embryo, fetus, and newborn may all be called a baby. Surely it isn’t being argued that abortion is acceptable because a fetus isn’t a “baby.”

  18. Wow, I am so shocked at all these people posting on here who could look at this ad, full of all these beautiful babies and only think about abortion? I feel sorry for you. We should all do such a wonderful job as this ad of supporting new parents, and young babies, however they came to be. Rock on Pampers, this was beautiful!

  19. I would like to know why the writer of this piece considers the term “special needs” “unhelpful terminology?” I’d like to have your response before I go and speculate on that…

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