The following editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, May 21:

Heretic!
That was the response from one of the more radical voices in the anti-abortion movement to President Obama’s plea in his Notre Dame speech that Americans try to reach common ground on the issue.
“It is obvious from Obama’s speech that matters pertaining to religion and moral issues are still above his pay grade,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. He accused Obama of having “apostate views on the role of Christianity … to be the ‘light on the hilltop’ that illuminates society with the wisdom of God” on moral issues such as abortion and stem-cell research.
It’s the retort one would expect from someone who apparently fears that any accommodation in this debate would lead him down the slippery slope to appeasement. But if Newman actually listened to Obama, he would have to conclude that was not the president’s stated goal.
Obama acknowledged Sunday that the two sides may never agree on the fundamental question of when life begins, or when it can be terminated.
He said: “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”
The president then made an important concession. “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause,” he said. That’s a reversal from Obama’s move in February to rescind the Bush administration’s “conscience” protections for health-care workers who refuse to participate in abortions on religious or moral grounds. Narrowing the scope of these rules would prevent workers from using them to refuse to provide other services, such as emergency contraception.
It’s good to see the president trying to move the ball. He agrees that far too many abortions occur in the United States. So how do we reduce the number? Obama said we begin by talking to, not at, each other. “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,” said Obama.
The Notre Dame speech has just as much promise to provide an appropriate course for this nation on abortion as Obama’s pre-election speech here did on race relations. In that address, too, he asked that more attention be paid to people’s common bonds than to their differences. But, just as it will with race relations, it’s going to take more than one good speech to make that happen.
Americans’ attitudes toward abortion are changing. For the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995, a slight majority of those polled, 51 percent, now describe themselves as “pro-life.” That’s up from 44 percent just a year ago.
Of course, “pro-life” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. There are conditions under which many who are “pro-life” believe abortion is permissible. But they all believe there should be fewer abortions. So does he, says Obama.


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