Roundup: Obama Goes to Notre Dame

Obama Gives Commencement Address at Notre Dame; Engages Issue of Abortion
Obama headed to South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday to deliver the
commencement address at the University of Notre Dame.  There he
directly engaged the question of abortion, putting it in context by
comparing it to other issues that deeply divide Americans: 

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal
passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps
needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical
pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves
unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts.
Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in
admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the
parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their
son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.


The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it
possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a
vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How
does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we
consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held
convictions on the other side?

Nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion…


So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking
abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more
available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their
child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with
abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that
all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound
science, as well as respect for the equality of women."


Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion
can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it –
indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject
are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that 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. But surely
we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

You can read the full text of the speech and watch video here

While far-right Catholics like Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society
predictably panned Notre Dame for refusing to rescind the invitation,
pundits observed that the President didn’t shy away from the criticism of his appearance and directly engaged their concerns.

In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza writes,

Rather than ignore those who opposed his presence on campus, Obama
chose instead to directly engage his critics — telling a story from
his 2004 Senate bid in which a pro-life doctor had written to him
asking that he tone down the the rhetoric on his campaign Web site that
condemned "right wing ideologues" seeking to take away a woman’s right
to choose. Obama read the language himself and ordered it changed.

That experience taught him that "when we open up our hearts and our
minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe
precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the
possibility of common ground."

On abortion, the common ground Obama proposed was a joint effort by
both sides of the issue to reduce the number of abortions in the
country, cut the number of unwanted pregnancies and make adoption more

"As a pro-choice Catholic who attended a Jesuit school, I was surprised
and pleased to see that that a school with Catholic affiliation would
allow him to speak," wrote Daniela Ramirez of Human Rights Watch on Huffington Post.

HuffPo’s Katharine Zaleski interviewed Brennan Bollman, Notre Dame’s valedictorian. "In an interview with the Huffington Post, Bollman stressed that her
peers do not view the president’s overall values as inconsistent with
Catholicism. In fact, Bollman says Obama is practicing Catholic values
in his administration. Like Jesus, Bollman says, Obama is trying to
invite ‘everyone to the table.’"

Finally, Peter Baker’s New York Times liveblog of the event includes coverage of the protesters’ interruptions. 

New Gallup Poll Finds Majority of Americans Identify As "Pro-Life"
last week a new Gallup poll found, for the first time since 1995, that
a majority of Americans — 51% — identify as "pro-life."  It’s a
dramatic change since last year, when 50% were pro-choice and 44%
pro-life.  (This year just 42% identify as pro-choice.)  You can see
the graph of identifications over time at Bonnie Erbe’s US News & World Report blog.

At the New York Times, Tobin Harshaw offers a comprehensive roundup of interpretations of the Gallup poll.  At the Atlantic, Marc Ambinder reminds us to look beyond the label: "The abortion debate in America is about policy, not about those
words – they do not encapsulate, for instance, whether a majority want
abortion to be legal for pregnant women whose lives is threatened by
the pregnancy in the third trimester. Some people who call themselves
‘pro-life’ might say abortion should be legal in that case.”  In fact, the same poll found
that only 22% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal "in all
cases."  Fifty-three percent say it should be legal under "certain

Other News to Note

May 17: Star Press: Safe-sex education? Schools say no

May 15: BeliefNet: "The old tactics have failed"

May 17: Houston Chronicle: Taking birth out of budget

May 16: Global Health: Withdrawal – Not As Stupid As We Thought?

May 14: Colorado Springs Independent: Let’s talk about sex

May 16: North-west Evening Mail: Teens urged to heed safe sex message

May 15: Reuters Health: Contraceptive use, reproductive patterns may play role in etiology of cancer

May 16: Daily Monitor (Uganda): Do you care about contraception?

May 16: Times of India: Emergency pills in demand as condom sales dips

May 16: Visalia Times-Delta: Tulare County teen birth rates remain high

May 17: Houston Chronicle: Perry’s agenda pending in final stretch

May 17: Catholic News Agency: Law on abortion would grant amnesty to promoters of death in Spain

May 17: WaPo: Gay-Marriage Issue Awaits Court Pick Same-Sex Unions Supplant Abortion As Social Priority for Conservatives

May 16: OneNewsNow: Kansas abortion clinic case goes to high court

May 15: U.S. News and World Report: Growing Anti-Abortion Ranks Will Keep Republicans Marginalized

May 17: Manila Times: Passing, not killing, the RHB

May 15: Reuters: No Way, Baby

May 15: BeliefNet: U.S. Catholics: Let Obama speak (and keep abortion legal)

May 14: Daily KOS: RCC looking for diverse pro-choice candidates

May 14: How Many Catholics Follow the Vatican’s Ban on Contraception?

May 14: Dallas Morning News: Out-of-wedlock births and the white overclass

May 15: Catholic News Agency: Chilean government rejects foreign pressure to legalize abortion

May 14: HuffPo: Spain’s Move To Fully Legalize Abortion Presents Clash With Spanish Catholic Church

May 14: Chicago Tribune: Is Obama an `extremist’ on abortion?

May 14: Daily News: NARAL Goes Early For Gillibrand

May 15: NYTimes: On Abortion, Obama Is Drawn Into Debate He Hoped to Avoid

May 14: AP: Neb. senators advance abortion ultrasound measure 

May 14: KTVN Reno: Study: More Women Skip Reproductive Services to Save Money

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  • invalid-0

    This entire controversy is hypocritical. Pregnant women are killed in war. Do they not bare unborn innocent children? Is it OK for us to kill the unborn in the act of war? Remember the Sixth Commandment? Does it give us a free pass to kill the unborn during war.

    Also, whatever happened to the (Republican) party of personal responsibility and leave the decision to the States and respect individuals’ personal decisions?

  • progo35

    Abortion in the THIRD TRIMESTER???? Please give several examples under which the woman’s LIFE is threatened by such a pregnancy, not including emotional distress and fetal handicap.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    I don’t equate pro-choice with pro-abortion. It’s never going to make someone have an abortion just because it is legal, but all Americans need to have the same rights.

    On another note, I also feel that Obama did a good job addressing this in his speech and I think his ideals are good.

  • invalid-0

    This is a very slippery slope our President is suggesting, promoting adoption. I have seen people on television today promoting incentivizing this idea almost glamourizing it. Adoption was glorified pre Roe and women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried were hidden away in homes so the sight of their pregnant bellies would not offend. This led to shame and coercion.

  • progo35

    Illinois-your portrayal of adoption is archaic and ignorant. Today, adoption includes many, many different options, from closed to semi open to open, and pregnant women are not shamed in the same way that they were long ago. Hopefully, this stigma will continue to fade with time, but that will not happen by encouraging women not to pursue adoption rather than abortion, which, if done because of fear of social shame, perpetuates the same kind of slavery that hiding pregnancies did in the 1950s and 60s.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    I have no idea why the media seems to think that Gallup polls are an adequate representation of American interest. This poll in particular was conducted with only 1,015 participants. It is estimated by the US Census that there are 217.8 million voting-age adults in the United States.
    No offense but this poll is ridiculous.

  • on-the-issues-magazine

    While Obama should be congratulated for his ability to maintain a calm and cool demeanor in the face of adversity, feminists and all women need to hold tightly to their beliefs and demand the right to an abortion. At On The Issues Magazine, Merle Hoffman argues in “Higher Ground, Not Common Ground,” that standing on common ground is akin to capitulation, and calls on an unapologetic women’s movement.

    “As feminists who fight battles against those who would deny women’s freedom and equality, we know the mettle of our enemies. They are relentless, committed beyond secular principles, willing to look at things in the very long term, absolutely sure of their righteousness and totally determined.”