The Corner


The Politics of the Colorado Springs Murders

Over at Bloomberg View, I go into the questions of what responsibility pro-lifers bear for the murders in Colorado Springs, what political movements generally have a responsibility to do to discourage violence, and how selectively the press covers these issues. Here I want to make a simple point about the political exploitation of these killings to discredit pro-lifers: I don’t think it’s going to work.

I think, that is, that most Americans are perfectly capable of distinguishing this murderer from peaceful pro-lifers and of seeing that, while pro-life activists, like any other kind of activists, sometimes say intemperate things, they are not responsible for these murders. That might change if these murders were followed up by others, so that we had a real pattern that people regularly saw in the news. But nothing like that has been happening in recent years. Look at this chart from the National Abortion Federation: There were 2 murders attributable to anti-abortion violence in 1998, one in 2009, and none in between or afterward–until now. That’s too many murders, of course, but thankfully we have seen no organized campaign of anti-abortion violence.

Late-term abortionist George Tiller was murdered on May 31, 2009. (Here’s NR’s editorial on that murder.) That murder was clearly a political act; the mix of politics and mental illness in this weekend’s killings is still a bit murky. But many of the same arguments about pro-life complicity in the murder that are being made today were being made then too. Those arguments don’t seem to have had much political effect. Gallup asked abortion questions both in early May (before the Tiller murder) and July (after it). There was a dip in the percentage of people who considered themselves “pro-life” and an increase in the percentage who considered themselves “pro-choice.” But I wouldn’t bank on even that short-term shift. The early-May number for pro-lifers was unusually high–the highest Gallup had ever recorded–and even the July number was the second-highest until that time. And Gallup also asked whether abortion should be allowed in all, most, a few, or no circumstances. Over that period support for the two most liberal positions dropped slightly and support for the most conservative one rose.

The next year, pro-lifers won elections at every level of government.



Assuming that we see no more anti-abortion murders, and that the Republican presidential nominee does not say anything crazy about these murders, I suspect that what happened in Colorado Springs will play no role in next year’s election.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Yes, They Are Coming for Your Guns

At the Democratic-primary debate in Houston last night, Beto O’Rourke formally killed off one of the gun-control movement’s favorite taunts: The famous “Nobody is coming for your guns, wingnut.” Asked bluntly whether he was proposing confiscation, O’Rourke abandoned the disingenuous euphemisms that have ... Read More
White House

Politico Doubles Down on Fake Turnberry Scandal

It's tough to be an investigative reporter. Everybody who feeds you a tip has an axe to grind. Or, alternatively, you find yourself going, "I wonder if . . . ?" You put in your research, you talk to lots of people, you accumulate a huge pile of information, but you still haven't proved your hypothesis. A wise ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN: Everything but the News

For a while, we thought MSNBC had temporarily usurped CNN as the font of fake news — although both networks had tied for the most negative coverage (93 percent of all their news reports) of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. A cynic would argue that CNN had deliberately given Trump undue coverage ... Read More