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. Bonnie

    Where were these protestors when our precious babies were being abused within the Catholic Church. Where are your priorities, do not abuse while in the womb, but wait until after birth.

    May 17, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Margie

    Stop abortion – Use morning after pill if necessary. Will stop the political fighting on this issue all together.

    May 17, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. M J

    I simply cannot tolerate this subject (from either side) any more.

    May 17, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. Michelle

    I am very proud of both fathers, Notre Dame School of '09 students, and Obama. It is very interesting that the majority of the protesters were not students of the school. It is a shame what elderly people have to do for publicity and attention!

    For the students who protested silently with the cross and baby feet on your head....I respect you! The 2 attention needy (non graduating trespassers) folks that interrupted the ceremony with your noise...shame on you! You only got 1/2 a minute – LOL!

    May 17, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. MK

    I watched the speech with my family today and I was so impressed (once again) with President Obama's intelligence and presence. He is a man who can bring together people of all voices and colors and I am so proud of my country (yes, for the first time in my adult life). Notre Dame was the perfect place for his voice to be heard and I am honored to be a catholic who supports the choice to invite him.

    May 17, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. skyhawkdriver

    Why was this president even allowed to speak at notre dame??.and of his saying that healthcare for women who have their children should be affordable smacks of pure politics..america does not want socialized medicine..the taxpayers are already saddled with chrysler..soon also general motors..the notre dame administration should be embarrased and censured by the catholic church..for this president to pontificate about the murdering of unborn children is disgusting

    May 17, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. alvino

    Obama will always be welcomed at Lutheran Colleges. Lutherans are, after all, the true catholics.

    May 17, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. cindy

    We watched our CIC's speech, and saw again why he is our President. The way he handled the hecklers was with class. They way he spoke on abortion was with class. The way he told the Class of 09 just how important they are to our economic crises, world crises, was with class.

    May 17, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. alvino

    I appears that a number of students from Notre Dame skipped the religion class the day they were talking about Jesus and tolerance.

    May 17, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. paulette dye

    I dont believe in abortion but i do believe in people making there own decision. We can not make anyone do what we want without Love and that in itself is a hugh thing. Love doesnt force or shovel its oppinion on someone else. We all fall short of RIGHT we all do wrong, We need to fix ourselves first then maybe then we can fix other. Making someone do as we think they should never works. But showing them love llike the bible says makes the different we seek. I just pray for us all, to be more giving and not condemning but showing the right way.

    May 17, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. jk

    Our country is in the midst of an economic melt-down. Each day brings news about layoffs. Our nations first black president keeps running around the country like a movie star. Keep your honorary degree and stay home Obama!

    May 17, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. donmcybertect

    Now, there's a President you can be proud of! A man who can enumerate his own beliefs without taking anything away from someone holding a very differing opinion. It will be interesting to hear what the folks over at Fox have to say. We'll see.

    May 17, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Leon Guild

    I was very glad to hear Obama's inspiring speech at Notre Dame talking about all sides of an issue being brought to the table and listened to with respect.

    I was very disappointed in the coverage that your producers and anchors provided before and after the speech. They made it sound as though the campus was in turmoil and there would be a no-holds-barred battle between the people who were FOR LIFE and AGAINST LIFE. What a contrast to what was really going on there and in the actual speech.

    Please tell your producers and anchors that there must be a better way to sell advertising than to hype every issue into a potential disaster.

    May 17, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Now lets see...they had a philosophical problem giving President Obama an honorary degree here at Arizona State...located in the Mormon capital of the southwest, and now they have that same philosophical problem at Notre Dame, the bastion of Catholicism in Indiana... what do they both have in common...
    I hope each new football prospect is questioned before given a scholarship, and those who are pro choice are turned away... to go play in the SEC.

    May 17, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. AmazingGrace

    I can't add more to what has been eloquently worded by the POTUS and president of Notre Dame. These are the kind of leaders we need in this world.

    May 17, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. wakeupamerica

    I am pro choice female. I understand the argument on both sides but I believe it is horrible that the Notre Dame students graduated in the midst of all of this political chaos. In my opinion, the pro life protestors ruined their graduation which should have been a celebratory event. I believe we should discuss the issues, debate the issues, but the forum the pro lifers used was inexcusable. I am also glad President Obama addressed it head on. I still believe abortion should not be linked to politics. It is a woman's individual choice, not something that should be determined by potical vote, especially when some people choose to only vote Republican solely because of the life issue.

    May 17, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    Good old catholics (one I have not been since as far as I can remember) living in ancient times still.
    It's about time that your religion gets a life (no pun intended).
    Nothing says stupid than making a statement and missing your graduation. Good luck in the real world. It's not pretty and abortion is the last thing that will be on your mind as you look for a job and try to keep one.

    May 17, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. SLM

    Birth Control over Abortion!

    May 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. Wanderer

    My house welcomes everyone who comes as friend regardless of their beliefs, but no solicitors, religious, or missionaries. The solicitors, religious, and missionaries have the same purpose … ‘psychologically making others to blindly agree with them’ …

    May 17, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. C W

    All these self-righteous Catholic clergy and congregation members need to take a long, hard look at their practice of re-assigning and covering up for priests who were/are pedophiles.

    How many lives has the Catholic Church destroyed over the centuries in this way?

    And what about all the lives lost during the Holocaust because of the complicity of the Catholic Church?

    And shall we get into the Inquisition, the Crusades and the "tactics" used by the Catholic Church throughout its history to convert people to its faith?

    The Catholic Church has an awful lot of blood on its hands.

    May 17, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. Get on with the problems at hand.

    It's sad in this day and age of liberation for women in this United States, there are still those who would stone a woman to death, if they had the chance, because the woman has chosen NOT to be a mother or to limit her family. Ladies lets face it. WE are still treated as third class citizens by mostly men. When will the courts finally take our side and let us decide the fate of our own body.. The answer? When the Supreme Court is an all female body of power.. Think about it.

    May 17, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  22. Tom

    I would like politicians to call on science to create an artifical womb.

    It removes all arguments from the pro-choice side.

    It would give women a real choice.

    Murder has never been a legitimate choice and it should never be chosen.

    Irresponsible women who create life should be given a choice to allow that life to grow in an alternative environment where it could become the person that it was meant to be.

    Otherwise Irrespnsible women who creat life should have their life creating equipment removed permanently. They don't deserve it.

    May 17, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Republicans are the American Taliban

    If a fetus is a human being, does it have a right to own a firearm?

    May 17, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. Robin

    CNN seems to go out of its way to create a drama when there is none. Obama got a wonderful warm welcome and standing ovation and so he should.. He gave a wonderful speech.. I like the points he raised about doubt..

    Afterwards, I like how the Jesuit priest who was on your show, commented with a humility that reflected Obama's own words that are attempting to bridge the divide of a very controversial subject.

    Bravo President Obama, Bravo Notre Dame for standing up to some of the Catholic Bishops and Priests who tried to scuttle this most important speech today..


    May 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Robert R. Miller

    The CNN coverage of this event seemed incessently pre-occupied with magnified coverage of every possible dissent, counting every protestor, examining whether the protestor was a graduate, undergraduate or just a person...who left the assembly...etc. etc.

    You gave many minutes to the most unyielding "analyst" available matched him with a reasonable priest of good will and tolerance... for seemingly indefinite reprise and reptition of the obvious... One was stuck permanenty in his idololgy and dissent, the other pointed to ways that even Catholics can co-exist in a pluralistic society. Perhaps anti-abortion protests were at the core of this story...but the spirit and success of the encounter and presentations, I thought, were much more about the need for tolerance, respect, and seeking ways for cooperation between people in our democracy.

    I guess we are SICK AND TIRED OF talking heads screaming at each other...for years and years now on CNN.

    Many cheered and applauded Obama, apparently hearing his message of hope and reason. .

    May 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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