Obama wades into abortion debate with graduation speech

May 18th, 2009 - 7:36 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 18 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Sunday acknowledged the hot-button issue of abortion, as he addressed graduates at the University of Notre Dame, stressing that both sides could work together to help women facing unplanned pregnancies.
The appearance by the Democratic president, who supports access to abortion, has sparked high-profile protests at the Catholic university and from pro-life advocates around the country for the past several weeks. More than 70 bishops had weighed in, saying that giving Obama an honorary degree despite his abortion stance was in conflict with the church’s opposition to abortion.

“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions,” Obama said.

He stressed that those on both sides of the issues could work to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and support women who have their babies. He also called for a “sensible” conscience clause to allow healthcare workers to opt out of procedures they object to on moral or religious grounds.

Obama’s speech at the campus in South Bend, Indiana, was interrupted several times by protestors in the audience, but the interruptions were booed by the largely receptive crowd of 12,000. Several dozen of the graduates wore boards decorated with

crosses and small footprints to represent aborted foetuses.

“I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,” he told graduates.

“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.”

The issue will likely to remain in the spotlight as Obama weighs his choice for an opening on the US Supreme Court. Views on abortion are widely debated in choices of justice to the high court, with any challenges to abortion laws likely to end up before the high court. Activists on both sides of the issue have been vocal in seeking

justices that share their views.

About 35 protestors from pro-life groups were arrested for trespassing on campus at Notre Dame, the local South Bend Tribune newspaper reported. Norma McCorvey, the woman whose legal case seeking the right to have an abortion succeeded in the US Supreme

Court in 1973, was among those arrested. She has since become an anti-abortion crusader.

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