He said he told the graduates there are many cultural issues today that have created disrespect for life.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is defending comments he made earlier this month linking legalized abortion with school shootings.

Cramer told The Forum and The Bismarck Tribune that his speech was about the erosion of Christianity and morals in American culture — something he has talked about for years.

During the May 4 graduation speech at the University of Mary in Bismarck, the North Dakota Republican said: "Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often."

He said he told the graduates there are many cultural issues today that have created disrespect for life.

"We as a society don't want to face up to the fact that the cultural deterioration of our country has real consequences," Cramer told The Forum. "We have traded a culture of life for a culture of death and wonder why we don't celebrate life the way we used to. Life has become so disposable, yet we scratch our heads over violence."

Chad Oban, executive director of the state Democratic Party, told the Tribune that it was "illogical" to make a connection between abortion and school violence. He also said he thought Cramer was out of line making the remarks during a college commencement address, and that he received telephone calls after the speech from attendees who were uncomfortable with some of Cramer's talking points.

"It should be about the graduates and their future," Oban said. "I don't have a problem with Congressman Cramer or anyone talking about their religion, but he went a lot further."

Cramer said he expected his words to be criticized.

"We've gone to this place in our culture where political correctness is more important than political discourse," he said.

Cramer is a veteran North Dakota politician, though he is serving his first term in Congress. Mark Jendrysik, a political science professor at the University of North Dakota, told the Tribune that Cramer's comments are getting more scrutiny now but he expects them to "largely be forgotten" before the next election in 18 months.

"The substance of what he does while in office in addressing the concerns of North Dakotans, or what he does not do, will determine how he's judged," Jendrysik said.