In his commencement address to Notre Dame over the weekend, President Obama said, “I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because 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.” The second sentence is an admirably clear statement of the abortion debate, which is driven by a disagreement over its basic terms. The first sentence is an outright lie – Barack Obama very much believes the debate on abortion should “go away,” because his political party is absolutely, fanatically devoted to the position that this debate was settled, forever, in 1973. The rest of Obama’s remarks on abortion, and much of the rest of his commencement address, was an embarrassing set of evasions that doesn’t square with Obama’s governing philosophy.

The pro-choice position holds that a pregnant woman has an absolute right to control her own body and abort an unwanted pregnancy. The pro-life side believes the life of the unborn child is a more important consideration than personal liberty. The majority of people who identify themselves as “pro-choice” do not believe the aborted fetus is a living human being with any legal rights. Some see abortion as essentially a surgical procedure to remove a clump of cells. This view is hard-coded into federal law through the Roe vs. Wade decision, which states that no legal restriction can be placed on aborting a fetus until it can potentially survive outside the mother’s womb. The majority of people who identify themselves as “pro-life” believe the unborn child is human long before it can pass this “survivability” test, so abortion involves the killing of a living human being. This is not a difference of opinion that can be resolved by “holding hands” and “building bridges.” I doubt it is a question medical science will ever resolve conclusively for us, since they’ll never develop a soul detector… and if they did, it would immediately be suppressed by politicians, to prevent it from being used on them.

When Obama gave his commencement address, he spoke as if he were addressing two equal sides of an ongoing debate awaiting resolution… but in reality, he is the head of a federal apparatus that regards the legality of abortion on demand as permanently settled, and the head of a party that regards dissension from pro-choice orthodoxy as heresy. The students at Notre Dame didn’t need to hear breezy platitudes about how they should learn to “open their hearts and minds to those who may not think precisely like they do,” a lesson Obama pompously declares himself qualified to teach. Instead, they needed to hear Barack Obama explain why he will not even consider appointing a Supreme Court justice who has the slightest criticism of the shoddy Roe vs. Wade decision. They needed to hear why the Democrat Party would never extend a pro-life speaker the courtesy Notre Dame extended to him.

It’s easy to ramble on about how everyone should be civil and learn to respect each others’ viewpoints, when your side of the debate is sitting on a Supreme Court decision that renders the opposing position illegal. Does anyone think Obama would have been singing the praises of open hearts and open minds if George Bush’s Supreme Court had struck down Roe vs. Wade, and forty states had immediately passed laws making abortion illegal, except in cases of forced pregnancy and medical necessity? Would he have secured the Democrat nomination if he’d spent 2008 lecturing the Democrat base about how “differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love,” without federal law mandating that those will always be differences of opinion, rather than differences in policy? If abortion had been legally outlawed in some states, would the media allow a pro-life president to tell a student body how much he honors their consciences, without pointing out how an oppressive law has rendered their conscience irrelevant?

The last thing anyone in the Democrat Party wants to do is have a genuine debate, with serious consequences, against the pro-life movement. The best liberals can bring themselves to do is offer tepid acknowledgement that another side to the debate exists, which you can barely hear over the sound of the liberal congratulating himself for the openness of his mind. Pro-life demonstrators have already been classified as incipient terrorists by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, and now they’ve been compared to night-riding vigilantes… by the leader of a Catholic school, no less. As with the opponents of same-sex marriage, those who strongly oppose abortion on demand are told their beliefs are permanently trumped by legal decisions and court interpretations, and they should content themselves with dropping a card into the national complaint box, where the government’s customer-service department will review it and get back to them later. Your opinion matters to us! Have a nice day!

Obama’s rhetorical smokescreen burns away when you remember who he is, and what positions he has supported as both senator and President. He encourages his audience to “work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.” How? By giving official power and funding to the young women who have been going into those federally-supported abortion clinics with video cameras, and documenting their abuses? He asserted that “too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice.” Who’s more motivated by “immediate self-interest and crass materialism,” the pro-lifers, or the people who treat unwanted pregnancies as sudden attacks of an acute disease? Isn’t it socialists who regard the world as a zero-sum game, and assign themselves the duty of spreading the wealth around to the less fortunate, who can never earn a fair piece of the economic pie for themselves because the rich and powerful are hogging all the pie? Wasn’t it “immediate self-interest and crass materialism” that led Obama’s party to conclude it had a right to steal trillions of dollars from future generations to pay off its political allies today?

Considering the Left’s obsession with lunatic environmentalism, and the way they generally describe the results of unwanted pregnancies as little more than tax liabilities for a groaning welfare state, one might think their enthusiasm for abortion on demand comes from a conviction that keeping the population down is the only way to get that pie divided efficiently. Conservatives are the ones who believe the world is better with more people in it.

Obama urged pro-lifers in his audience to “join hands in a common effort” with their opponents. He should have made it clear that they would forever be the junior partners in this common effort, and he was prepared to spare no effort in keeping it that way. If he truly respects the passion and commitment of his opponents, he won’t mind putting his party’s rigid ideology to the test against them. It’s easy to salute the spirit of competition when you’re confident you’ll be the only legal contestant.

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