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. Royster

    It is a shame that the good students of Notre Dame were USED by the far right of the GOP in their little hate-campaign against Obama. C'mon, Alan Keyes?? How right wing can you get? This political bimbo only shows up when the far far right surfaces. This was more a cse of political science class at N.D. than anything else.....a nice lesson in how a political party can twist a message and try and turn an honorable occasion into a circus that not only makes the GOP look bad, it also makes the Catholic church look bad. I AM a
    Catholic, and totally agree with Obama that the sides (esp the right) is demonizing the other side. It is funny we never see Notre Dame have demonstrations against anything else! All of the sudden they are conscious of their religion? I don't think so......

    May 17, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. jtm

    Total class, every step of the way. Yes, CNN and Fox blew the protests out of proportion–it was clear from the moment Obama walked into the Joyce that the crowd respected him as a man and as the POTUS. I feel sorry for the students who skipped their graduation, because they missed what could have been a real highpoint of their lives. But it's so much easier to just block out the voices of those who disagree with you, rather than come up with a rational, respectful response. Jenkins said it beautifully, "We do not agree with you," but Notre Dame honored Obama for what he's done that's good–and that's a lot, IMHO.

    May 17, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. Neil

    Congratulations to Mr. Obama. He's had a good week. He did not skirt the subject with the usual political rhetoric. He spoke directly to the extreme positions squarely from the center. He was eloquent and inspiring. I hate it when he does that.

    May 17, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    very proud of my President

    May 17, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  5. pheonix86

    I love Barack Obama and everything he stands for shame on those that oppose this commencement ceremony....

    May 17, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. peg

    This is why I cannot accept Obama's rhetoric. He asks for civility...what? What is civil about defaming the Notre Dame graduation ceremony with a pro abortion speaker??? He should have the respect to honor the belief system (Catholic – anti-abortion) and not feed his ego. Just because he is president, does not mean we can ignore he is the biggest pro abortion advocate in the White House this country has ever seen, and then says he his a christian. He believes his lies....and so the lie feeds itself. Aborting life is far from civil!

    May 17, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. aj

    what an intelligent man he is...

    May 17, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  8. jonnierae

    Obama's speech was transcendant, symbolic, a lesson in humanity 101. He had the crowd suspended, hanging on every word and he did not disappoint. I was extremely proud of him; if you watch the speech, you will understand why he is beloved by so many. Bravo, President Obama!!! This blog shows that what you said about how "It won't be easy," is so true.

    May 17, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Do not judge

    I am a Christian woman, the daughter of a Baptist Minster. One of the principles of the Bible is DO NOT JUDGE LEST YE BE JUDGED! As reglious minded individuals we can not for get this simple rule. I am prochoice not becausenI condone abortion, acutally I think it's a tradgedy. However, it is not my place to judge. The one thing the Lord said he would never take from man is free choice. If God does not take our free chyoice away how can man. Just as God deplores abortion so do I but I believe in everyone ability to choose for themselves. The reason organized religion is often mocked is that is to exclusive. My church welcomes all people regardless of belief in hopes that they will find the way of Christ. Stop judging and being hateful and start looking in the mirror, I am sure their are plenty of things in all of our lives that could be protested. God bless Obama and God bless ALL AMERICANS!

    May 17, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. Colin l. Silver

    I wish that everyone would just do like they did with President Bush. Sit back, don't say anything, and just enjoy the ride. Only this time the ride will not be into the ground, but a ride that will take this country into a better direction than the past eight year downward spiraling roller coaster ride.

    May 17, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. Jaime Smith, Cleveland, OH

    I do agree with abortion because no man, no government is going to tell me what I can or cannot do with my own body and whatever is inside of it. The people heckling the President are ridiculous and should find something better to do with their time. Do you know how many unwanted children there are in this world? How many of these pro-life people give to adoptive families or have adopted children of their own? How many give to charities that help adopted kids and poor families? My guess is NONE. They have their own agenda and think that an unwanted child is a good idea.

    This is the 21st century people. Lets not reverse history and make the worst decision ever.

    May 17, 2009 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  12. jotan

    I firmly believe in a womans right to choose. The only person, I have to answer to, is My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whenever I watch our President, Barack Obama. It isnt with Rose colored glasses. It is with the fresh eye sight and hearing of someone who actually SPEAKS to me. Who answers where/when he can. I do not expect to know everything that goes on in the White House for security reasons. The bottom line is this, It is "MY" Body and "MY" sole I will answer to. NOT YOURS!

    God Bless the USA and God Bless and Continue to protect, our 44th President of the United States. Barack Obama

    May 17, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  13. duh ray ray

    My mother wanted to abort me,but I jumped out early and became a republican instead.I love Rush Limbaugh too.

    May 17, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  14. Habecker

    "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."

    I'm suprised CNN didn't mention that she has since changed her stance and was arrested because she's looking to reverse Roe v. Wade.

    May 17, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  15. JJ in Chula Vista, CA

    People have a right to their own personal beliefs... the problem with people who use religion as their "guiding light" seem to think they have a monopoly on morality and values, when both morality and valies transcend religious faith and affiliation.

    Christians in the United States of America seem to think that it's only THEIR faith, THEIR anger, THEIR outrage, that's more important than everyone else's and if you disagree you're told you're going to hell or are going to reap the wrath of God. A contradiction in terms...

    May 17, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  16. Pat F

    Dumb speech. People who are against abortion thinks it's murder. Does he think that murder is a matter for compromise?

    Typical empty rhetoric from the empty suit.

    May 17, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  17. Sherry

    And each side has an equal right to be heard.

    May 17, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  18. Dace Tucson

    Yes it is so odd that bush could kill hundred of thousands of innocent civilians and thousands of our troops in a criminal war and yet there was no issue with him speaking. The religious zealots that want state ownership of women are truly vile and their extremism is dangerous – we live in a democracy not the theocracy they seek. Go to a fundamentalist Islamic state if you want that. Otherwise live your life as you want and don't force your perverted sense of morals on the rest of us.

    May 17, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  19. Vince - phoenix

    This was to be a commencement CELEBRATION. Celebrating the educational achievement of these young adults from an outstanding university.. The right AND the media hi-jacked these kids's day. Shame.

    What should have been a focus on highlighting THEIR moment, THEIR transition to the harsh realities of the adult world, THEIR reflection of the journey they just completed and thoughts on THEIR futures....

    was stolen from them for a stinking political game.

    May 17, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Women should make the decisions concerning women, not men.

    May 17, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  21. Sue, Vienna, VA

    TO: Liberal Democrats are Pathetic
    Yes, Democrats are liberal and Republicans are conservative, but is it really necessary to denigrate and malign members of either party for having their own personal views? To call people you don't even know "pathetic", "obamabot", and "un-thinking" is totally non-constructive and child-like. Get a grip!

    May 17, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  22. Shawn - Ga

    Killing is wrong and is a sin... this is a very sad and scary day. This president is going to take us not only to a bad place in our economy, he is going to take us straight to hell. God does not care about our politics he knows that those who follow him will be against society and that is how it should be. Having so many "split off" christian faiths is what is causing our problems. The Catholic faith has been around for 2000 years. You can not pick and choose what you want to agree with and not.

    May 17, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  23. Abdul Rahman

    What is this debate all about anyway?are prolifers suggesting that abortion is an immoral act so it is a sin in the eyes of God?if that is so on what ground are they formulating their so called abortion is a sin against God argument?if abortion is a sin against God then let that be a question between the person who committed that sin and God. The legal question on abortion has been determined in Roe v Wade. It is simply a woman's right to privacy so let us live it at that. If abortion is taking the life of a child who cannot defend s/he own life why do we sanction that it is alright to wait until they are in their late teens and twentiees before we take their life in the field of battle. How does the catholic church and all pro-lifers make a moral distinction between the two?

    May 17, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  24. sandy

    Now, I am more convinced than even that I voted for the right man. He makes me so proud to be an American. He is so intelligent, eloquent and holds his audiences captive. We are sooooo lucky America.

    May 17, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  25. Super MOD

    @gary davis Harbor Oregon – You state he says with truth and really wants our country to move forward in a positive and equal rights and ability of fairness for all the people.

    I would say all people includes the many unborn children who never get to see the light of day because their parents could not handle the responsibility of raising a child instead opting to have the child destroyed in the womb. You have no personal responsibility for your actions. While I do support forms of birth control, you are still making a decision that you must live with those consequences.

    The only side to the argument is cases of rape and medical issues. This is a really gray area.

    May 17, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
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