Put aside the question of whether a distinctly Catholic institution like Notre Dame should award an honorary degree to a man who stands against any restrictions on abortion; put aside the notion of academic freedom, which liberals favor as an intellectual premise, but rarely practice when it comes to conservative speakers, whom you very rarely see standing at the lectern at commencement ceremonies anywhere in the United States this time of year.
Focus, instead, on President Obama's remarks and whether he is serious, or can be made so, about actually reducing the number of abortions in America, which, according to the National Right to Life Committee, has reached 50 million since its legalization in 1973. Don't put aside, however, the argument that there is only one reason to even want to reduce the number of abortions and that is that what is being killed, terminated, evacuated (choose your term) is, in fact, human life.
At Notre Dame, the president gave an eloquent and well-crafted speech, full of Christian rhetoric and self-deprecating humor. He made a strong case for civility in the abortion debate, but curiously noted that the advance in civil rights legislation came only after confrontation, some of which turned violent. Without that confrontation, he seemed to suggest, there might not be laws that liberated blacks and made it possible for him to become president.
In speaking of "original sin," the president hit upon why abortion has been so easily tolerated for so long. He spoke of "self-interest" and "crass materialism," but he did so in the context of economics, not abortion. Possibly without meaning to, he correctly diagnosed the underlying rationale that has caused so many to willingly, sometimes casually, snuff out another life.
The president listed these goals, "Let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions; let's reduce unintended pregnancies." (Watch for this to include a new push for contraceptives and the kind of sex education in schools that has failed to reduce and some believe encourages sexual activity.) "Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term."
As the president referred to scripture and skillfully engaged in religious rhetoric, he might consider this verse: "By their fruits you shall know them." (Matthew 7:16).
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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