Advocates for reproductive rights march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin. (Photo: Sergio Flores for the Washington Post via Getty Images)

'This Is Sick': Cable Companies Refuse to Air Ad Criticizing Corporate Donors to Florida's Abortion Opponents

"Corporate America protecting itself from being called out for supporting candidates that want to ban abortion in Florida," is how state Rep. Anna Eskamani summarized Comcast and Spectrum's decision.

One of the Democratic Party's largest political advocacy groups planned to launch a six-figure ad campaign in three Florida media markets to denounce AT&T, Disney, and NBCUniversal for donating to anti-choice politicians--who are trying to enact a Texas-like abortion ban, the group says--but cable giants Comcast and Spectrum have refused to air the television commercial, the Tampa Bay Timesreported Tuesday.

"Lawmakers did it in Texas, and now they want to try to do it in Florida," actors say in the ad, paid for by American Bridge 21st Century. "Big corporate money is funding them. What are they doing?"

According to the Times:

The Democratic group was already running digital ads about abortion in Florida. But last week, they planned to run the cable spot in Tallahassee, Tampa, and Orlando as part of its 'Corporate Accountability Action' project. On Friday, the group was told local cable providers had declined to run it. The activists had tried to place the commercial via the interconnect, a process that allows advertisers to make one purchase with a large cable company to reach the subscribers of multiple providers. In Tallahassee, Comcast was the company that declined to air the ads for the market. In Tampa and Orlando, Spectrum said no.

A spokesperson for Effectv, the ad sales division of Comcast Cable, said the American Bridge ad "did not comply with the company's 'Personal Attack' guidelines." Those rules say Comcast can reject an ad if it is "merely an attack of a personal nature, a direct attack on an individual business, or [a] comment on a private dispute."

A spokesperson for Spectrum also said the ad violated its standards.

However, American Bridge's claim that "big corporate money is funding" Florida's anti-abortion lawmakers appears to be factual.

According to the group's analysis--based on campaign finance data provided by FollowTheMoney.org--"AT&T, Disney, and NBCUniversal have given nearly $453,000 combined to Republican state lawmakers in Florida who have sponsored abortion restrictions," the Times reported.

Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) rebuked Comcast and Spectrum for their decision to cancel the ads, calling it an example of "Corporate America protecting itself from being called out for supporting candidates that want to ban abortion in Florida."

AT&T tried to defend its donations to anti-abortion officials by citing its contributions to pro-choice legislators. While Disney and NBCUniversal did not respond to the Times' request for comment, the newspaper noted that both companies have also given money to lawmakers who support reproductive rights.

It remains to be seen if Florida's GOP will attempt to pass a bill similar to the one approved last month by Texas Republicans.

"Florida's leaders have said they will look at the abortion issue this legislative session, which starts Jan. 11," the Times noted. "But it's unclear if they will pursue a Texas-style law, which bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable--before many women know they are pregnant. The Texas law also has a controversial provision that essentially deputizes regular people to report violations of the ban."

Florida Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-27) "has already filed a bill like the Texas law," the newspaper added. "But House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-65) and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-10) have yet to come out in support of such a measure. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who supports abortion restrictions, has also not made his legislative intentions clear."

When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the unconstitutional Texas abortion law from going into effect last month even though it essentially overturns Roe v. Wade, progressives warned that the high court's six right-wing justices were enabling Republican state lawmakers to carry out a nationwide assault on reproductive rights and demanded federal legislation to protect healthcare access.

Another American Bridge ad condemning AT&T for contributing to Texas' "anti-abortion politicians who wrote the dangerous law" was rejected earlier this month by the Dallas Morning News, which refused to run the digital spot on its website.

"This seems to be viewpoint-based censorship," journalist Judd Legum tweeted in response to that development. "These ads are not allowed to run because they are critical of corporations."

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