Catholics warmly applauded President Barack Obama’s speech at Notre Dame University May 17th upholding women’s right to choose an abortion while also providing healthcare and childcare for women who choose to deliver their babies full term.
Obama told the crowd that “no matter how much we want to fudge it … the fact is that at some level the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.”
He added, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortions but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually … So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.”
Obama received thunderous applause from the crowd of 12,000 with many joining in a standing ovation as he appealed for “open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words” on the abortion issue.
Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, told the World that the small anti-choice minority who protested Obama’s speech does not represent the majority of Catholics, who “voted overwhelmingly for Obama last November.”
He said the anti-abortion extremists “shot themselves in both feet. They are out of touch with where most Americans stand on this issue. The people are fed up with the endless, negative culture wars on the issue of abortions.”
Obama is right in calling for measures “that reduce the need for abortions,” O’Brien added. “No woman should have to choose an abortion because of poverty. We should support women with healthcare and childcare so that they can exercise their right to choose which may mean they choose to continue their pregnancy.”
The issue of abortion looms in Obama’s nomination of a candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who has been with the majority in many 5-4 rulings upholding Roe v. Wade the landmark ruling upholding abortion rights.
“Given the importance of the Supreme Court in supporting Roe v. Wade, it is critical that the balance be kept and women maintain their right to choose,” he said.
Obama did not mention it explicitly, “but there is no doubt that contraception and sex education is absolutely critical if we are going to reduce the need for abortions,” O’Brien continued.
Some people are anti-choice on principle or because of their religious views, he said. “They are entitled to their views but they are not entitled to deny any woman her right to choose,” he said.
A small minority at Notre Dame attempted to block Obama from delivering the commencement address and picketed outside the campus gates as he spoke. There was also a scattering of anti-abortionists in the audience who heckled as the President spoke; 27 were arrested.
But O’Brien cited a Pew Research Center poll that 64 percent of Catholics supported Notre Dame’s invitation. “Catholics are very proud that Obama accepted the invitation to speak at the preeminent Catholic University in the United States,” he said.
He blasted “self-promoting individuals like Randall Terry and Frank Pavone and marginal, single-issue organizations like the Cardinal Newman Society and the Catholic League.”
These groups, O’Brien added, are concerned that Obama “has started to take the heat out of the abortion debate by focusing on the needs of women and their families and proposing policies that will reduce the need for abortions.”
He added, “Ultraonservative anti-choice campaigners want to wage a permanent war over abortion marked by bloviating rhetoric and overblown speechifying.” But the majority favor “policies that respect the rights of women and their families to make decisions about the issues that affect their lives,” O’Brien concluded.