President Obama's Comments on Abortion Common Ground

President Obama's Comments on Abortion Common Ground


In an on the record meeting with Catholic reporters today, President Obama gave us some insight on some specific common ground areas he thinks may be possible on abortion. The Brody File has the transcription of his comments below. Read them carefully and I think you'll get a good sense of where he is going with this.

Q: I'm interested in the group you've organized to seek common ground on the abortion issue.  There have been some reports, early reports about certain problems getting off the ground, with pro-life groups insisting that contraception be taken off the table, and abortion rights groups insisting that no language be used talking about reducing the actual number of abortions.  And I was wondering, what are your realistic hopes for this group?

THE PRESIDENT:  My understanding is that we've now received a range of perspectives, gathered up comments.  The group has been working, has met, has been active.  A memo is going to come to me sometime this summer --

MR. DuBOIS:  Soon.

THE PRESIDENT:  -- which describes where we think there's common ground, where there's some irreconcilable differences.

As I've said before, I've never been under the illusion that there are going to be -- that we were going to simply talk all our differences away on these issues.  Again, I acknowledged this in the Notre Dame speech.  I think there's a irreducible difference, conflict, on the abortion issue that the best we can do is suggest that people of goodwill can be on either side, but you can't wish those differences away.

So I don't yet have the recommendations.  I can tell you, though, that on the idea of helping young people make smart choices so that they are not engaging in casual sexual activity that can lead to unwanted pregnancies, on the importance of adoption as a option, an alternative to abortion, on caring for pregnant women so that it is easier for them to support children, those are immediately three areas where I would be surprised if we don't have some pretty significant areas of agreement.

You identified the areas where things may be more difficult.  I personally think that combining good sexual and -- or good sex and moral education needs to be combined with contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  I recognize that contradicts Catholic Church doctrine, so I would not expect someone who feels very strongly about this issue as a matter of religious faith to be able to agree with me on that, but that's my personal view.  We may not be able to arrive at perfectly compatible language on that front.

I would be surprised if those who believe abortion should be legal would object to language that says we should try to reduce the circumstances in which women feel compelled to obtain an abortion.  If they took that position, I would disagree with them.  I don't know any circumstance in which abortion is a happy circumstance or decision, and to the extent that we can help women avoid being confronted with a circumstance in which that's even a consideration, I think that's a good thing.  But again, that's my view.  There may be politics involved in this that I'm not entirely aware of.  I have not been involved with the actual meetings so far.

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