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An Internet-based drama about crisis-pregnancy centers and the Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad with Tim Tebow are recent examples of a “softer” approach to promoting the sanctity of human life.
BY Tim Drake Register Senior Writer
SAN DIEGO — Whether it’s Focus on
the Family’s Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad or the new online drama series “Bump+,”
recent pro-life efforts have drawn criticism from some pro-life groups and
individuals who feel that the projects don’t go far enough.
“I am disappointed, and feel that
pro-lifers were sucked into a controversy that really wasn’t there,” said
Monica Migliorino Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, about
the Tebow ad. “If we judge the ad on its own merits, it is not an anti-abortion
Similar complaints were leveled at
the Web-based TV series “Bump+.” The production company Yellow Line Studio
launched its drama series about crisis pregnancies on Jan. 22, the 37th
anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
The fictional series, which is available for viewing exclusively on the
Internet, tells the stories of three women caught in crisis pregnancies.
The executive producer, Dominic
Iocco, came up with the idea early last year. Iocco wanted to use the Internet
to get people on both sides of the abortion issue talking.
“The goal was to start a
conversation about a topic that, prior to now, has been polarizing, with people
on either side shouting at one another,” said Maggie Mahrt, co-director of the
series and an actress in it.
Several of those involved cited
President Obama’s University of Notre Dame speech, in which he challenged
people to have a conversation on the topic, as the inspiration for the show.
In “Bump+,” which airs Mondays and
Thursdays at BumptheShow.com and on YouTube, the stories are told of three
“expectant mothers.” None of the women is actually pregnant — everyone involved
is a professional actor. The audience is encouraged to comment on each episode
and share personal stories. The series will wrap up March 15.
Already, the pilot episode has
generated more than 15,000 views. The website is receiving 6,000 to 7,000
people on its busiest days. The series was produced at a cost of $30,000, all
raised through private investors. Everyone who worked on the production did so
without pay, except for the actors. The budget went toward building a doctor’s
office set on a soundstage, paying actors and production costs.
“No matter how adamant viewers are
in their beliefs, we felt the fictional world would allow them to let down
their guard a bit,” said Matt Salisbury, head writer for the series.
“The series is aimed at those who
haven’t made up their minds,” said Iocco. “We really wanted to start this
project from the perspective of telling honest stories and listening.”
“There were a lot of professional
actors from Los Angeles who were involved who were not on the same page,” said
Some of the controversy surrounding
“Bump+” came from news stories. A Jan. 31 Washington Post
column by Kathleen Parker had a headline describing the show as a “game show,”
which it is not. The headline read: “Turning abortion into an online game
show.” She also says that “the decision to abort or not to abort is up to you,
dear audience.” That is not correct.
A subsequent Fox News story also
originally described the series as an “abortion game show,” but the headline
has been changed.
Those involved in the production of
the series noted that none of these descriptions is true. While the series is
shot in a “reality” style, it’s not a reality program.
“There’s no voting whatsoever,” said
Salisbury. “Rather, the audience helps to shape the story through their input.”
“All members of the creative team
are reading the viewer comments and stories and taking them into
consideration,” described Salisbury. “Viewers aren’t being asked to decide
whether a baby is kept.”
“The idea of an abortion reality
show would make most people uncomfortable, if not sick,” said Iocco, noting
that that is not what their program is.
Talk-show host Laura Ingraham
criticized the show, its approach and the series’ producer. On her Feb. 3 show,
she described it as “disgusting” and crass entertainment that “glorifies
She criticized Iocco, who serves as
provost at San Diego’s John Paul the Great University, for not being more
forthcoming about his pro-life intentions. “The provost at a Catholic
university could not answer a question about the sanctity of life in a
straightforward way,” said Ingraham. “I find that appalling.”
“The way to approach someone who is
undecided about abortion is by listening first, not asking if they are pro-life
or pro-choice,” responded Iocco. “Any good sidewalk counselor will tell you the
“We wanted to create a piece of art
that encouraged listening first and that created a space where people could
share their deeply personal stories about pregnancy and abortion in a safe
environment,” added Iocco. “Anyone who is pro-life should be excited about an
effort that listens first and portrays the reality of the women in these
Ingraham disagreed with the dialogue
approach. “How does this advance the ball on the life question?” she asked. She
said that the series “muddies the water,” and said that rather than dialogue,
she advocated being “on the front lines to support life.”
“We believe that if we bring the
truth to the story, it will change hearts and minds,” said Derry Connolly,
president of John Paul the Great University, on Ingraham’s show on Feb. 9.
“Jesus used stories.”
Connolly defended the university and
its association with the production, noting that half of the student body
attended the West Coast Walk for Life and that university students are present
outside abortion businesses praying every week.
“The students at John Paul the Great
are absolutely on fire for the Lord,” said Connolly. “Every student is pro-life
“We wouldn’t debate slavery in this
way,” responded Ingraham. “You went down a road that is not all that clear or
helpful. I don’t think there is any reason for your institution to associate
yourself with a project as anemic as this one.”
The program has received praise from
those on both sides of the abortion issue.
Entertainer and celebrity gadfly
Perez Hilton said on his blog that the series “could spark some really
important discussions on the subject.”
am encouraged when anybody tries to do anything to help the pro-life movement
even if it’s not the same approach that I personally would take,” said David
Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life. “The example I think of
regularly is the passage of Scripture about the body of Christ. The pro-life
movement is made up of many parts, but we are one movement. There is a place
for more gentle advocacy and sharing heartwarming stories, and there is a place
at times for confronting people with the hard truth of what abortion is.”
offered the example of Feminists for Life campaigns, which seek to bring
pro-life and pro-abortion people together to make sure college campuses are
pregnant-woman-friendly and that resources are available. “I know of
many campuses that now have resources for women, and I believe that ultimately
this will help to save the lives of children by meeting the needs of the
mothers,” said Bereit. “All of these things, as long as they are
well-intentioned and people do it in a Christ-like fashion, can work toward the
greater good. The more people we have speaking up for life, the better off our
nation will be.”
Father Frank Pavone, director of
Priests for Life, agreed, describing the series as “a great service to the
“The commandment is against killing
or compromising with killing, not against soft ads or approaches,” said Father
Pavone. “Positive commands such as ‘do good’ or ‘preserve life’ admit of
different degrees and limits.”
“On the pro-life side of the coin,
we have to make sure that we’re not just articulating arguments,” said Father
Pavone. “We need to feel with those who are facing the decision and the
temptations that might drive someone toward abortion. This doesn’t mean that
the decision should be anything other than choosing life, but the more we
understand those in the situation, the better we will be able to help them.”
Tim Drake is based
in St. Joseph, Minnesota.