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. ella

    Beautiful speech.

    May 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. arthur

    It is so interesting listening and reading from highly educated and highly respected people making a big deal out of something simple. And to them with all due respect I would ask is their case really about abortion or simply because they have problems living with the difference. I am not pro-choice. I am not pro-life. I am pro-human. Now where does that put me? I say that only because I do not want to live by neither one of these political slogan: "Pro-life, Pro-choice".

    I think it is fine to protest against abortion but I do not think simply that would change much. I think these positions should follow by the foundation of organizations and services available to those mostly who are forced by circumstances to abort. I think these protesters should start communicating with these women who consider abortion as their best option. All also not forget to sit with other women who carry their children to term only because they could not afford abortion or because they did not have a choice.

    I overhead a man said no to abortion only because his women are his property. Their job is have children and they cannot say no. Now, how many of us men are thinking, feeling, and treating women the same. Is it really about the unborn? If it is really about the unborn, let's really starting talking and doing things for those millions abandoned, homeless children who wake up this morning hungry, thirsty, dirty, humiliated, sick, forgotten and who are going to bed tonight hungrier, thirstier, dirtier, more humiliated, more sick, more forgotten by the rest of the world.

    The pro-life message should not stop at a protest in front of an abortion clinic, a political rally, or commencement ceremony. It should sharing a piece of bread, a cup of clean water, a home, a hospital bed, and hope with these millions needy children living right here, in the United States of America.

    May 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. ann

    Bonnie, I sooo agree w/U!!! Read her comment...

    "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".

    The hypocricy of those who claim to support life. I guess that "support" only lasts until the child comes down and out of the birth canal. Once they are in the world it's fair game to do whatever you want to and with them. Shame, shame, shame on those hypocrites!!!!

    May 17, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Barbara - Atlanta

    Phenomenal speech as usual.

    BTW...what happen to all the "so call protestors"?

    May 17, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. GOP Disaster

    can't we all just get along?

    May 17, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Martin Keely

    The President's address at the Notre Dame commencement was simply brilliant – eloquent, reasoned, generous, worthy of careful study and consideration. His nuanced positions, his careful distinctions, and unbiased rationality mark him as one of the most brilliant and decent presidents in the history of the Republic.
    Many will applaud gratefully. And many more will mindlessly demonize his refusal to embrace simple answers to complex questions. You know who you are.

    May 17, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. rachel

    I am sort of sick of the 24 hour coverage of Obama(both of them) .Yes they are the president and first lady but errh enough is enough. I would have liked to see some coverage of Hillary's NYU commencent speech, and didn't VP Biden give one too? At this point I'd rather hear more about the Obama children or Bo Obama than Mr and Mrs Obama with all due respect.

    May 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Mary Clark

    As a devout Catholic – and a supporter of abortion rights for women – and a strong Obama supporter – I am appalled at the hypocrisy of some who protested this speech & honorary degree. I don't remember anyone protesting the former president's address even though he was and still is a strong supporter of capital punishment, also a practice not supported by the "official" Catholic Church. What many do not understand is that the overwhelming majority of American Catholics think for themselves, do not necessarily "revere" the Pope, and still consider themselves "good" Catholics. The irony is the Catholic Church will never call them on it because of the financial support we give the Church! And by the way – I lived overseas in a predominately Catholic country for 10 years (during the 1980s) and found that women there routinely seek and have abortions, albeit illegal ones..... all because they don't have easy access to birth control.

    May 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. Liberal Democrats are Pathetic


    You are laughable because you have no idea what you are talking about because of your goo goo eyes over Obama. There was no outrage because there is nothing to outraged over, unless you need to come up with something for elections like Pelosi did. All of a sudden, when election time comes around, the "harsh techniques" are called torture for political gain. The "unnecessary war" you speak of was supported unanimously by both parties, until the election came around and dumbocrats needed something to oppose Bush on. So, I really laugh when you try to re-shape history to fill in the holes in you line of thinking... oh wait you aren't thinking. You are merely an obamabot, following without questioning.

    May 17, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. David in West Virginia

    The Catholic Church and their so-called social values are the main reason for the abortion problems of today. Afterall, if you were well-to-do in the 60's and early 70's as many of these socialites were, they could go off and abort their child so they wouldn't be seen carrying what their communities called "bastards". How soon they forget that they created this monster and now wants to somehow blame everyone else when it was they that let the cat out of the bag. But there are hypocrites everywhere. It's time to discuss abortion and find common ground towards solving this dilemna instead of playing the blame game! Then, we can solve the major issues facing this country, including abortion, drugs, crime, illegal immigrants, and yes, torturers!

    May 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Judy

    The President gave an important and inspiring speech today. His respect for differing views is the reason I voted for him. My favorite part of the speech was this:

    "In this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you've been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse."

    May 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Pacollegegirl

    These people are a JOKE! I can't believe they are protesting our President and yet the sit quietly by while their wives, sons and daughters are being rapped! My sister goes to ND (YUCK!) and talks about all of the ANTI-VIRGINS there...Can we say HYPOCRITES!



    May 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Doug in New Mexico

    It is being said that abortion is murder. So is the killing in war, and so is the death penalty, and so is the killing of any sentient creature. And just as bad is the lack of caring for the unwanted children who are brought into this world and suffer. There is so much suffering and there are so many out there that just ignore it and latch onto a single issue and just go nuts over it. If there was just a little bit more compassion there might not be so many unwanted babies and there would be less abortions and less crime and people locked away in prisons and institutions. I too do not agree with abortion but I have also witnessed what happens to unwanted children.

    May 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. sam

    Even though I admire President Obama, I have a problem with abortion, and I hope that he would revese it by increasing adoption for unwanted children. With that said,even though some catholics are protesting and angry about Obama and the abortion situation, they need to clean up their "yard" before they criticize other peoples "crabgrass"; by this I mean that don't get angry about abortion when you have some of the sinful priests that were/are molesting boys, but nothing is said about that too much anymore. So people ,warn your little sons not to bend down and pick up X-Box games from the floor in front of some of these hypocritical,lying priests out there. There are some great priests in the catholic community, but the ones that are guilty know who they are!!!!

    May 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Highpowered

    This is the fakest controversy ever.........

    Reagan: believed in death penalty

    Bush: FRIED HANDICAPPED people in Texas, Lied about Iraq......

    Seriously, this is the fakest controversy ever..........

    May 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. G in BR

    jk May 17th, 2009 4:13 pm ET

    What in the hell are you talking about? I am so tired of the hateful buffoonery that flows from the lips of the ignorant. Discuss the issue at hand and not how much Obama appears to rub you the wrong way!!! Idiot!!!

    May 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. gl, Pittsburgh

    No white man have the right to tell me what I can and can not due with my body. If I want the get an aboration I will and ain't no law going to stop me but GOD BOTTOM LINE. AND FOR YOU Bible want to be, you can not pick parts of the Bible you just want to follow like Miss Californa the striper. She think it is okay to take nude pictures while being a christian. She is a big fake under cover striper.

    May 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. Andi

    One more time, everyone. Notre Dame INVITED OUR President to speak. Some of you posters are acting as if the President just walked in one day and told Notre Dame he was going to speak at commencement and demanded a degree for himself. Some of you blasting off at Obama are totally out of line, in this case. You are free to speak stupidly, alas, however, I am also free to tell you it is out of line.

    May 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    well again her is a man that can give a speech and mean everything he says with truth and really wants our country to move forward in a posative and equal rights and ability of fareness for all the people . not the chosen few ...for the people by the people.
    and the students sounded like they really like having him speak

    what a refreshing thing a president that can speak woooooo what a deal ..makes me proud to be an american. and good luck to all who graduates in this time of trouble .. and to all of america and the world . it is like this president was supposed to be elected to save our country from greed and threats of war and stop our government from taking us down .

    the group of ney sayers is getting smaller .. because they are getting louder and louder about the loss of the republican base and people have finnally woke up from the eight years of mind control .

    thank GOD

    May 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. john c

    president was great, proud to be an american with a pres. like, obama.

    May 17, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Roman

    All of you buffaloed by Obama's words are as aimlessly blind to reality as those who, in the name of loyalty to their vote and to a party, believed everything Bush said. Obama has waffled on anything that requires moral certainty, conviction, and staying true to his word. It is so easy to sound like the point of reason when you never have to take a stand. Keep your ears closed to really listening and one day Obama will really shock all of you who hear but aren't listening.

    May 17, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. G in BR

    My question to the protestors: Where and when did you protest the sex abuse scandals that so many of your beloved priests were accused of? I'll wait for your replies.

    May 17, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. Joyce Becker

    I thought that President Obama addressed his differences with the Church in a most civilized manner, we as mature humans should be able to discuss each others point of view and listen to them, knowing that we agree on more things and should dwell on those things while paying attention to the others point of views and see what we can do to prevent things such as abortions from happening, sex education, adoptions, safe sex, etc. I also believe that Catholics should not try to push their religion on others who do not agree with them, religion should be a private thing. I was very proud of both the Father's and Obama's speech, they are sensible in a world of hostile differences.

    May 17, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. marty w

    War aborts life
    Executions abort life
    Torture aborts life
    Annullments abort life
    Pedophilia aborts life
    All of which are condoned by members of the Catholic faith.....many of whom could never stand the scrutiny they exact on women.
    In the case of abortion, how much press is given to the impregnator?
    When the Keyes and Randalls push strollers with baby dolls and fake blood as they did at Notre Dame, do they also show photos or mimic violent rape scenes? History also depicts the horrible treatment of "unwed" mothers who were under the care of the Catholic clergy not too many years agol.

    May 17, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. Melissa

    Very good speech. Touching and thoughtful. Too bad so many Americans will totally ignore it or twist it to say things that it didn't.

    May 17, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
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