May 17th, 2009
03:31 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama: 'Each side will continue to make its case' on abortion

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (CNN) - President Barack Obama delved into the charged abortion debate in a controversial Notre Dame commencement address Sunday, urging civility and a search for common ground on perhaps the most divisive issue in American politics.

Read: Obama's remarks at Notre Dame

Addressing a sharply divided audience at the storied Catholic university, Obama nevertheless conceded that no matter how much Americans "may want to fudge it ... at some level the views of the two camps are irreconcilable."

"Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction," he said. "But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature."

The commencement ceremony was boycotted by a number of graduates dismayed by the university's decision both to tap Obama as its commencement speaker and to give him an honorary degree. The president is a supporter of abortion rights and federally-funded embryonic stem-cell research - positions that are anathema to traditional Catholic teachings.

Some graduates attended the ceremony, but expressed their disapproval by donning a mortar board marked with a cross and the outline of an infant's footprints. Others countered by wearing mortarboards adorned with an Obama campaign symbol.

Twenty-seven people were arrested prior to Obama's speech, according to a spokeswoman for the St. Joseph County, Indiana, jail. Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff identified as "Roe" in the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, was among those arrested.

But inside, several hecklers who interrupted the start of Obama's speech were loudly booed by the audience.

Full story

Filed under: Abortion • President Obama
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. The Broker.

    When you have a Mother, then you can abort.

    May 17, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. The Broker.

    When you have a dad. You can't??? Who decides? You!!!!!

    May 17, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. Theresa

    Where was all of this "outrage" when George W Bush, a torturer, liar, death penalty supporter, who started an unnecessary war based on cooked up evidence that has killed hundreds of thousands of living breathing thinking human beings gave the commencement address at Notre Dame? The hypocrisy is disgusting and makes any "debate" about this issue by the very people who supported the 43rd "President" laughable.

    May 17, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. ve

    Great speech by the Father and President Obama !

    The problem is that the church age has come to an end..

    May 17, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. obambi

    Listening to Obama–I know why I did not vote for him. He is so full of himself,you need an emesis basin to listen.I think he agreed to this speech purposely to thumb his noses at people against abortion and pro saving babies lives.Again I am reminded of his statement–"we won". I have lost respect for the catholic church for embracing this man and honoring him. He is no uniter, but very devisive.

    May 17, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. David

    And Republicans will continue to stir the's what they do best.

    May 17, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. sciencegeek101

    As much as I am against abortion, I don't think that it should be banned. If abortion is banned, people will find other hazerdous ways to have an abortion. I do think that there should be more money for stem cell research.

    May 17, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Mitchell from MS

    Lets be clear everyone who makes a comment here has an oponion and not everyone is going to agree.

    I don't think this issue is going to be settled on a cnn web site!

    May 17, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. Kathleen

    As always, President Obama handles these situations with grace, dignity and intelligence. What a fine and inspirational speech! I am struck by how so many significant moments in his career always harken back to signficant historical moments, as is the case with Father Ted and his work to craft future civil rights legislation. The Catholic church should be proud. Congratulations, Class of 2009!!

    May 17, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  10. How can you give an honorary degree....

    to someone who promotes the murder of fetuses???

    May 17, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. Ty

    Cool, Calm and Collected....

    President Obama is always on his game...

    A Great representation for the United States...

    Go Obama Go!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. bk

    Obama should have stayed home and let the graduates have their day. What an ass.

    May 17, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |

    media spin begins in 3,2,1

    May 17, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. Right Trash

    Once again, it's outsiders who were the cause of the minor flareup today-same ridiculous crowd that got all worked up over Terry Schiavo. Don't these people have jobs or lives or families to attend to? When you actually see what they look like, no explanation for their beliefs is needed; their appearance says it all.

    May 17, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Carol

    President Obama and the rest of the Notre Dame speakers did a wonderful job. The speeches were heartfelt and really, it made me almost cry.

    Corny, but true. There is so much hope for the future. Divisiveness and accentuating our differences is not the answer to what faces these new graduates. Kudos to President Obama, the Notre Dame administration and those fine graduates who attended.

    May 17, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. linda

    president obama was fantastic...god bless him, the graduates and the faculty of Notre Dame. Well done

    May 17, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  17. PetePtld

    Any college or university that can book the President of the U.S. as graduation speaker ought to be thrilled. This isn't just any VIP, people. Can you move beyond one-issue thinking long enough to appreciate a HUGE honor?

    May 17, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. dg

    abortion is murder down right. every being has a right at life

    May 17, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. eanmd

    Where were these people when their concupiscent priests were indulged in sexual behavior with minors and, dare I say likely amongst each other, across the US ?!? Catholics should be mute on The Abortion topic. Judgement by our Lord always begins with those who are believers first before none believers. The Catholic Church is out of order. The Catholic Church needs to check itself or forever be seen as Lost – Hypocrites – Judaizers.

    May 17, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. Paulette Fisher

    Now is not the time for Democrats to start backing off the postions that got them elected. One of the reasons I vote democratic is the right to chose. I'll make my own choices (I have four children) and thank the government for keeping their hands and beliefs off my and other women's bodies, unless of course they are willing to support any children born to women who can't afford them!!!

    May 17, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. Susan

    Where were these people when they invited past presidents Bush and Reagan who both support capital punishment? Where were these catholics when they supported Bush policies destroy the ecology of our earth? Where were these catholics when Bush supported a baseless war, even though the pope objected ? The anti-female bias of the catholic church unfortunately continues on. I can assure you that those people who believe that abortion should be safe and available are also pro-life. Lets all work together to make abortion less necessary, not to ridiculously pick and choose which parts of the theology to support.

    May 17, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |

    Those sanctamonous, self-rightuous, holier-than-thou "pro-lifers" are nothing more than womens "choice abortionists".
    They are control freaks who are using so-called "innocent life" as a means to an end in controlling a woman's body for her.

    May 17, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Ed

    Obama is right, parts of the two sides of the abortion issue are irreconcilable. Now, let's move forward on deal with the dozens of other issues that are more important to the future of this country ... the economy, jobs, taxes, the deficit, the environment, energy policy, health care, national security, nuclear prolifiration, terrorism, two wars, education, transportation, infrastructure, entitlements, global warming, etc., etc.

    May 17, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Proud Notre Dame Graduate 2009

    Superb Ceremony.

    . . . I'll bet Emily Coates is feeling pretty dumb right now, missing her
    own graduation ceremony, and all. All the better for a lesson learned
    I guess. That being "one monkey don't stop no show".

    May 17, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. Life is only sacred before it's born

    Lets all remember that the Catholics only hold life sacred when it's unborn.

    After that they are more than happy to send that life they fought so hard to protect to their grave by sending them to senseless wars.

    Just like Jesus wanted!

    May 17, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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