Focus on the Family: Funding Extremism Millions of Dollars at a Time

The Super Bowl advertisement being funded and produced by Focus on the Family, using NFL player Tim Tebow and his mother Pam to highlight the beauty and importance of a woman being able to decide for herself whether she wants to carry a pregnancy to term or terminate  choosing to carry her pregnancy to term, has been discussed, dissected and critiqued enough, I realize. But in the back and forth about whether this is an issue of censorship by CBS (for refusing in both the past and the present to run advertisements from such progressive-minded groups like United Church of Christ,, a gay dating service, etc.) or an issue of injecting controversial commentary where it doesn’t belong, one thing has been overlooked. 

Just how does Focus on the Family have almost $3 million to run a single television ad? And if women’s health and rights organizations are so angry about it, why don’t they just purchase air time on the public air waves for their own persuasive moment?

Here’s what it comes down to. 

I would never, of course, ask an abortion fund or a women’s
health center to spend millions of dollars on an advertisement to highlight how critical reproductive rights are for women’s autonomy in this country. Why? Because they need that money to fund actual health care for actual human beings. I realize this is a foreign concept to those who chose to contribute to anti-choice, anti-family, anti-woman groups like Focus on the Family but I can break it down further. 

FoF is an
arm of an
extraordinarily powerful media EMPIRE
run by James Dobson which exists to
essentially push propaganda, fund their lobbying and disseminate an
anti-family, anti-woman agenda. At its core, FoF is a media ministry, in essence,
spending millions upon millions each year to push anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-family (except white, Christian, heterosexual ones) initiatives. You can read up on them on our site and
Right Wing Watch has an excellent run-down of exactly what they do with their money. Their reason for being is basically zealotry and they have
enormous sums of money to do that.

From Right Wing Watch:

According to Ministry Watch, Focus
on the Family is the eighth largest ministry in terms of revenues
in their database. FOF receives a
substantial portion of its revenue from its countless resources, including book,
periodical, CD, video, and magazine sales, as well as conference and retreat
costs, yet still, in its 2004 990 form, declares $118,263,318 of grants,
contributions and gifts received from donors
. Focus on the Family’s ownership of its land (it
prefers to own rather than rent its space) and buildings add up to $48 million
on its books, and in 2004 they cited the cost of upkeep and improvements on
their property to be over $101.5 million.


There are so few extremist, conservative organizations that actually exist to
provide non-biased, evidence-based, health care and social services for women, men and young people. Are there any? On
the other hand, without individual progressives funding health care and other services for
women (and men and young people) for places like Planned Parenthood, abortion funds,
independent women’s health centers, domestic violence shelters and more, we’d have far fewer health care and social serivce
options available. So, while women’s health advocates *are* donating
multi-millions to ensure actual care, conservatives are donating money to produce
slick, persuasive media.

Historically, more controversial issues have needed to be pushed almost
entirely from the grassroots. No one "funded" the suffragist movement
or the gay rights movement or the civil rights movement. We’re fighting against
a huge, well-funded patriarchal machine and unless and until we either a) elect
more progressive representatives who actually are pro-choice or b) persuade
some mega millionaires or venture capitalists that progressive media (like Air
America, for instance) is worth funding, I’m not sure what we can do at the level of a Super
Bowl Ad.

It is worth noting, of course, that this battleground over women’s health and rights exists to the degree it does because abortion access is legal in this country. It is not entirely accessible. It is not always affordable. It is dampened, often times, by state laws that seek to do nothing more than obstruct, with the woman’s well-being nowhere near a priority. But abortion is legal in the United States.

This kind of equity and justice is terrifying to extremist, conservative, Christian organizations like Focus on the Family.  It’s so utterfly terrifying, in fact, that they are willing to spend millions of dollars on advertising to a mostly male audience about how critical it is that women’s rights be obstructed and controlled by their agenda. 

The truth is Focus on the Family exists to produce slick propaganda and will pay millions of dollars to spread their gospel –  that’s essentially why they exist. They don’t care for the sick or ensure health care for those without health insurance (as Planned Parenthood and independent women’s health centers do around the country).

On a final note, and this deserves investigation, while Focus on the Family does make a lot of its money from revenue from its own book, CD, and DVD sales (according to Right Wing Watch), it also receives millions in grants. Are there similar, well-positioned women’s media organizations that are funded at similar levels? It is of course comparing apples to oranges as Focus on the Family is, at its core, a religious ministry and those who grant money to the organization may be donating more for FoF’s religious-ness than its media empire. But with Air America gone, and women-led, women-focused media outlets like Ms. Magazine run by a non-profit, how do we level the playing field (or do we?). It’s worth pondering. 

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  • r-e-taet

    “how do we level the playing field (or do we?)”

    The playing field is not level. More hold FoF’s opinions than hold yours, hence the extra money to spend.

    I do not think that FoF is airing the ad during the Super Bowl to reach male audience so that the men will go out an obstruct women’s rights. The Super Bowl is traditionally the highest watch prime time show. Last year 42 percent of households watched the Super Bowl. Its simply the best time to reach a large audience. Besides that, the only part of the Super Bowl my wife watches are the ads.

    What about the rights of the girls in China that are aborted? Who will join FoF to stand up for them?

    • jjs

      "More hold FoF’s opinions than hold yours, hence the extra money to spend."

      This is not necessarily true. More money does not mean that more individuals hold the opinion of FOF.  "In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated. As of 2004, the top 1% of households owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people control 85% of the nation’s wealth, leaving only 15% for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth less the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had a 42.2% share of the overall wealth." (

      It only means that those with money want to continue the repression of women by restricting their access to healthcare and family planning by supporting the propaganda spewed by FOF. I challenge you to show me reputable polls which show that more Americans want abortion to be illegal and to force women to carry unwanted or high risk pregnancies to term. As well, how do you propose to enforce this "law"? Pregnancy Prisons?

      I watched your youtube link. What do orphanges in Brazil, where there are many more children in the streets huffing glue and living as street urchins than live in safe, happy, orphanages, have to do with the crisis population control measures undertaken by a totalitarian government in China? It is my opinion that if the Chinese people had been more educated and/or had access to reliable family planning then the measures taken by the Chinese Gov’t would not have been necessary.

       I have a book recommendation for you (I love the title):

      "The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports" ~ Mariah Burton Nelson

  • amie-newman

    that you prefer to skip over the parts of this post that actually provide factual information. While I absolutely disagree that more people "agree with FoF" than disagree, FoF has millions because they don’t do anything but simply proselytize hate and profit off of their anti-family, anti-woman, anti-gay media machine. 

    While millions of Americans go without health insurance and are taken care of by Planned Parenthoods (men, women and young people), womens’ health centers, social service agencies and more – funded by other Americans – FoF is too busy peddling their propaganda to actually provide care or services. They have so much money because their "ministry" is nothing but a multi-million dollar business that profits off of exclusivity and patriarchy. 

    If Focus on the Family wanted to help Americans, they’d actually provide care and services to those who go without (and especially now – in a time when our country is in desperate straits, when people in other countries are suffering through actual crises). Instead, they are spending literally MILLIONS of dollars on an ad to do nothing more than attempt to persuade women that we don’t know what’s best for ourselves and our families. 

    And as far as FoF targeting the Super Bowl because wives watch ads, all I can say is that I find it fascinating that you are the one commenting on my post – not your wife.  

    What you simply refuse to concede, because it robs you of some of your power, is that women (like me) are loving mothers, with children, have reproductive health experiences you will never understand, and will never give up bodily autonomy. 

    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • jessica-arons

    Interesting that they have $3 million to spend on a 30-second ad right after they laid off 75 employees this past September and eliminated 200 positions the year before due to budget woes:

  • derekp

    The ad was not paid for with Focus on the Family’s general fund. Private donors gave gifts to help FOF spread the pro-life message to millions of people. It would be a waste of money if the unborn aren’t human beings. But since the unborn are human beings, it’s great that wealthy people would give money to influence people to not kill them. If you’re so peeved about that just get one of the mega-rich, pro-choice members of Hollywood to buy your own ad. Don’t people have the right to choose to spend their money how they wish? If you want to spend millions to defend the legal killing of human beings before they are born, then by all means, choose away.

  • amie-newman

    You are proving my point. Your more concerned with spending millions on spreading a message than (keep in mind, WHILE Focus on the Family was laying off actual human beings with actual children) providing actual health care to actual humans (including children), actual social services, even referrals would be better than spending literally millions of dollars on propaganda. 

    Concerned with the care of fetus’ are you? Than why not spend millions of dollars on prenatal care for women who desperately need it? Millions of Americans go without health care because of lack of insurance of the means to pay. This includes pregnant women. In fact, we spend billions on maternity care and we have one of the poorer health outcomes for mothers and newborns – we rank 41st out of 171 developed countries for maternal mortality. 

    But, wait, I’m sorry. You’d rather justify spending millions of dollars to spread propaganda. Once again, another male commenter justifying why we women need your control.


    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • derekp

    Good point, we should follow the lead of other developed nations that protect human life through quality health care. Ireland has a much lower maternal mortality rate and abortion is illegal there. The same is true in Poland, which is much poorer than the U.S. They believe in providing good health care, but probably realize abortion is not a safe medical procedure (50% of the people involved in the procedure end up dead! Somebody call the FDA!)

    And you’re right, I am a male commenter and probably an oppressor. But could I at least argue on behalf of the male fetuses that they not be killed? As a fellow man, don’t I at least have an interest in protecting them even if you don’t think this issue should concern me?

  • jodi-jacobson

    Women in Ireland receive abortions in England. They avoid the law via their proximity to a country that provides access to safe legal abortion. In fact, the Irish parliament at the behest of the Catholic Church tried to pass a law forbidding the provision of referral information to women by clinics or medical personnel advising them of their options in England and other countries of the EU. The law was struck down.


    Maternal mortality rates in Ireland therefore have little to nothing to do with the abortion law.


    Surely you know this.


    Same thing in Poland. All women who can afford to skirt Poland’s strict abortion law do so.  The flip side for those who can not afford to travel to nearby countries for safe, legal procedures is to resort to the Polish abortion underground, which thrives. 


    Some are forced to risk their lives or health or are treated with profound disrespect by the Church and the government. One woman–a mother already–won a lawsuit against a Catholic magazine  after being called "a child killer" because she became pregnant and found out her medical condition was such that continuing the pregnancy would cause her to go blind.

    Ms Tysiac’s sight problems grew worse following the births of each of her three children.

    on medical advice, she decided to have an abortion when she became
    pregnant for a third time eight years ago but her gynaecologist refused
    to perform the procedure.

    Poland has strict abortion regulations but they are allowed when the health of the mother or embryo is threatened.


    Both countries prove what is widely known to be the truth in all majority Catholic countries: Women do what they need to do to exercise control over their reproductive lives.


    The truer picture of the effects of illegal abortion on women’s health and lives is to look at countries in Africa and in Latin America where strict laws and geography make complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion leading killers of women.


    Again….surely you know this.



    Jodi Jacobson

  • crowepps

    It would be a waste of money if the unborn aren’t human beings.

    I’m not aware that anyone was arguing that the ‘unborn’ are not human beings (although of course some pregnancy do not involve a ‘human being’ at all).


    The argument, so far as I undestand it, is that they are not ‘persons’ who have a superior right to the biological processes of the women in which they are present over the needs of the woman herself.


    And since it does nothing whatsoever to settle the argument, spending millions on an advertisement is a huge waste of money when there are ‘unborn human beings’ out there who will die because they don’t have the opportunity to receive prenatal care.

  • amie-newman

    is via unsafe and illegal abortion – as Jodi so articulately points out. 

    Why do women worldwide continue to die during pregnancy and chilbirth in unacceptable numbers? From the World Health Organization:

    Five direct complications account for more than 70% of maternal deaths:
    haemorrhage (25%), infection (15%), unsafe abortion (13%), eclampsia
    (very high blood pressure leading to seizures – 12%), and obstructed
    labour (8%). While these are the main causes of maternal death,
    unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable, or poor quality care is
    fundamentally responsible. They are detrimental to social development
    and wellbeing, as some one million children are left motherless each
    year. These children are 10 times more likely to die within two years
    of their mothers’ death.

    Think of what Focus on the Family’s money, their donors’ money, could do with almost $3 million to aid in the saving of pregnant women’s lives and the health of their fetus’ and newborn babies. 

    Unsafe abortion is in the top five. In essence, to oppose legal abortion is to sentence women to death. As crowepps writes, what FoF does is sacrifice the lives of unborn babies by refusing to care one whit about or to donate any money towards prenatal care, allowing unborn babies and their mothers to die. 

    By the way, Derek, women understand that abortion is ending a life. But this is about ending a life that is completely reliant upon the woman to continue. It’s a difficult and challenging decision for some women. For others, it’s relief. Since most of the women who have abortions are already mothers, and the rest will likely become mothers when they are ready, there isn’t much surprise in terms of understanding that they are growing a life inside their body. I’ve got two wonderful, beautiful children. I’ve been through pregnancy three times – once ended in a miscarriage. Believe me, we clearly understand what’s happening despite your need to continually try and explain it to us. 

    I once heard the story of a young woman whose stock answer to anti-choice advocates when they threw out the "if your mother had aborted you, you’d never be here!" was: "If my mother had not had an abortion before I was conceived, I would never have been born, actually." Abortion is about allowing a woman to make a decision about the life she is growing inside of her own body – not having strangers decide for her.

    So, if Focus on the Family wants to truly "save lives" , why not actually save lives by, well, actually contributing money towards prenatal care rather than propagandizing through our public airwaves about what women should and shouldn’t be allowed to do with our own bodies?

    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • jjs

    Networks like CBS have policies codes, rules and regulations they are supposed to follow as the airwaves are supposed to be public property(although this is eroding, thank you Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Rupert Murdoch). Public service announcements are supposed to be allocated fairly and without bias. CBS has resisted/avoided issue ads or PSA’s during SuperBowl in the past. "But networks are arbitrary with their issue ads, leaving it to some cryptic "standards and practices" department to judge what’s appropriate for air. A church’s ad welcoming gays gets knocked out but a ministry’s ad bashing abortion isn’t. Why?" (

    The issue isn’t just who can afford to have their voices heard, it is who is allowed to have their voices heard.