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. Eucawells

    I am a catholic. However, we need to get off our self-righteous horse and start listening to and be accepting off people with opposing views, and more importantly, remember what Jesus said, "those of you without sin, cast the first stone." Catholics need to stop judging!!! Just this morning at mass, the cardinal spoke to the confirmation class telling them about judgment day. He did not sent them out to be judges of other, but shepherd to find lost sheep. A shepherd will not abandon a lost sheep; he will look until he finds it.

    With that said, that was a fantastic speech from both the Priest and President Obama.

    May 17, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |

    There were hecklers on many occasions when George Bush spoke – how ofter were they arrested. This appears to be just another time when free speech is only allowed to liberal voices?

    May 17, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. tracey

    The true message that the president gave to the graduates, wAS priceless! Remember the "lighthouse and the crossroads," Everyone iN this world have different views and ideas, and just because you have a certain value of religion that you were instilled with, works for you, and not everyone else. There's another side to this issue and not just yours! Very well said!

    May 17, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. welches, oregon

    Good Grief people – It's not like somebody is going to FORCE your daughter to abort your brother's child.

    Conservatives...... such hypocrites

    May 17, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Elizabeth, Class of 09

    I believe Emily Toates learned the most important lesson of her life today
    in denying herself the opportunity to attend her own graduation. Did she
    actually think she was hurting President Obama or the vast majority of
    student body who gave him a standing ovation by her not attending?

    That lesson is "never cut off your nose to spite your face".

    May 17, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. Simon in BC

    To reduce the number of abortions you could have early sex education and freely available contraceptives including the morning after pill. But the anti-abortion crowd would be opposed to these solutions as well because they are not just anti abortion but anti contraception and anti sex as well.

    Always they use the example of late term abortions (which account for less than .1 % of all abortions) to try to ban even the morning after pill when what is being terminated is a few dozen cells. Come clean and let us know that your real belief is that human life occurs at conception but is only blessed if that is within marriage. Stop the "killing babies" nonsense. Then let us see where the majority of sensible people's opinion lies.

    May 17, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  7. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Mary Clark, you can't believe in abortion rights and be a "devout" Catholic. You either believe in all the tenets, be it against abortion, war, the death penalty or none of them. You don't get to cherry-pick the issues to believe in and still consider yourself "devout". That being said, I have no issue with Notre Dame inviting the President to speak. Open debate and hearing opposing views is a hallmark of our democracy. I do have a problem with the honorary degree. It almost suggests agreement with his positions.

    May 17, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. GOP = 21st century dodo

    Here's the thing: If abortion is legal, pro-choice people can have the option available and pro-life people can still choose to not have abortions.

    If abortion is illegal, pro-choice people will not have the option available and will seek other means of terminating an unwanted pregnancy, just as people have been terminating pregnancies for thousands of years. Pro-life people can continue to not have abortions.

    I'm pro-choice but I'm not pro-abortion. I think abortions should have restrictions and should be the option of last resort. Intensive education about pregnancy prevention, including abstinence and birth control, would be a much more efficient means of reducing abortions than outlawing the practice outright.

    May 17, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Lori

    Beautiful speech by our President. I love the fact that he believes in opposing sides coming together instead of one side sticking their beliefs down everyones throats (take notes Republicans). The crowd LOVED the President and it must make all those conservative right-wing nuts who orchestrated this 'event' so mad. Good job Mr. President. The majority of Catholics and Americans support you!

    May 17, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Buddy Gilmour

    Obama is a great man and a great president. We are lucky to have him as our leader, though I am not sure we deserve him!

    May 17, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Michael , Kansas City MO

    Every Catholic woman should take hard look at their self in in mirror tomorrow morning if they are against abortion and don't have at least 25 children by time they are 35. Every egg they let pass each month is a lost potential life. They are just a guilty for preventing a life as a woman who aborts through a doctor.

    May 17, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Obama = Abortion

    Catholics who voted for Obama should acknowledge their insincerity over abortion. If it were Bush who was pro-abortion, he would have been booed for it, by the same so-called Catholics who adore Obama.

    May 17, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Bravo, Obama!

    Can you even IAMGINE Bush steeping into this type of situation? He would have had the room cleared and then filled with supporters and then played to the TV cameras.

    Obama has guts and a brain! Suck on that, Bush and Cheney!

    May 17, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Susan

    Another outstanding and refreshing speech from President Obama at Notre Dame today! What I don't understand about the abortion discussions is that abortion is LEGAL in this country. If you disagree, work to change the law; don't just continue the on-going argument. When Republicans have been in power in Washington, I don't remember any movement to change the abortion laws. It seems to only be a "talking point" to continue the "convenience" of bepartisan argument. Many, many people, including Presdient Obama, I believe, do not approve of abortion, but do believe in a woman's right to choose - there is a clear distinction between the two. Pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion, just as pro-life does not necessarily equal anti-capital punishment or anti-war where many lives are lost. There is common ground and we must find it.

    May 17, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. Ricky ATL

    That forever shrinking base of 25% of Americans that are divided by our current president are getting smaller by the minute...America is becoming the country of people that think for them selves...I for one am tired of religion and the GOP trying to tell me what to think.

    May 17, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. Joe

    Why not just vote on if abortion should be legal? Everyone calls Obama the people's president so he should do what the people want. I won't hold my breath though.

    May 17, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Lynn

    I totally agree with CNN"s pathetic coverage of the socalled "turmoil" at Notre Dame. Your "overview" even contradicts what your onsight reporters were saying. Three people were taken out due to protests and some "family" members walked out. Thirty grads attended an alternative ceremony. The protestors were the typical ones who show up all the time at every event.

    Your constant media created controversies make a mockery of the role of journalism in a democracy: to provide objective, investigative reports on what is going on. The only person on CNN who actually does this is Fareed and you give him one lousy hour a week!!

    May 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. Diane

    A grown woman may choose to get an abortion. That's a privacy issue. A woman may or may not need counciling. That's a privacy issue. If she can or cannot pay for it, that's another privacy issue. The woman who feels she needs to get an abortion should pay for it herself.

    The government should insist on giving her the privacy she wants and keep their money out this business.

    But: the pro-life crowd should understand that her life is important, too. They should try to understand her hardship. They should come along side to uplift her and guide her– and forgive her if it comes to that.

    This is the common ground.

    May 17, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. jeff

    these people or so up in arms with this abortion issue but the question is all of those who are making the argument how much of them will actually adopt a black, Mexican, or any other interracial child?

    May 17, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. Leah

    I am waiting for one brave reporter to explicitly state what punishment the Prochoice people would inflict on a woman who has an abortion or a doctor who performs one...a scarlet letter, stoning to death. If the Catholics who profess to their church's doctrines, why is it they are not producers of huge families??

    Tom: Quite a litany of sexist rants you have itemized. What about irresponsible men? Or did you forget that it takes two to tango???

    May 17, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. andrea

    It is extremely ironic (I am controlling myself here) that many of the pro-life activivists in this country are also social conservatives who oppose additional spenditures toward public education and universal health care. It seems as if all their concerns are centerend on forcing women to carry their pregnancies to term and then they wash their hands of any committment toward the future of children. Every baby for him/herself!!

    Life may begin in the womb but it does not end in the delivery room; there is a termendous amount of effort in raising a child as every parent knows. Where is the committment of these "pro-lifers" after birth? I don't see them demonstrating to demand good schools or access to post-natal care.They are instead the advocates of cutting social and health programs to pay for tax cuts for the upper class. What a bunch of hypocrites!!!

    May 17, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. Dirk

    I don't like abortion, but I can't see my morality and ethics overriding someone who has to make the choice about whether to bring a life into this world. As far as Obama's speech – its a free country and like the man or woman in the street he has a right to speak his mind.

    May 17, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  23. Marcus Tate

    Organized religion is dangerous. Throughout history, the only purpose religion ever had was to control people. They made up rules, called them commandments, and told people they came straight from God. The Vatican involves itself in politics. At times throughout history, countries could not wage war without the Vatican's approval. The Catholic church still tries to control people today. They tell you how much money to donate and how to live your life. Throughout history, more people have died in the name of God, or a god, than for any other reason. Not that I don't believe is a god or a creator, but I don't subscribe to how all organized religion, including the Catholic Church, uses it to control people. One need only to look to the countries we are now fighting every day to see the power of religion, and the insanity of it as well.

    May 17, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. Lolbama

    Another excellent example of how the dems just love someone that can bs the masses with his mellifluous "intelligence". At least with Bush there was no mistaking when he was trying fool people he was such a crappy public speaker. The sheople apparently like the melodious fecal sandwich rather than recognize one is headed their way.

    On another note, could it be the catholic church has been so beat up by the press (and their own shortcomings) that having the popular Shepherd come speak might ingratiate themselves with the anti-bible thumpers. I mean what are the bible thumpers gonna do, excommunicate the church?? lol

    May 17, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. Ann

    Pro-life is not just about abortion. it's about every part of life from conception to death, both human and nature. It's about social and economic justice. It's about being against capital punishment and wars. Pro-life means that you're pro-envirnoment.

    Well, Bush had one out of six. President Obama is more pro-life than Bush ever was.

    May 17, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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