OMAHA, Nebraska — Former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey says he has decided not to address graduates and their families at a Jesuit college in Omaha because he doesn’t want his support for abortion rights to be a distraction.

Kerrey told Creighton University’s president, Father Daniel Hendrickson, in a letter that the May 18 commencement “should be a moment of celebration and not disrupted by politics.”

The state Republican Party’s executive director, Ryan Hamilton, said last week that Creighton should find a different speaker and “take a stand for their pro-life values.” He disagreed Monday that the issue is political.

Kerrey says he supports Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Hendrickson told the campus that he appreciated Kerry’s desire not to shift the focus away from students.

“I am working with members of my leadership team regarding our commencement speaker and hope to be able to share the good news very soon,” the priest said.

Kerrey also served as Nebraska’s governor.

Crux staff contributed to this report.