On Political Books

May/June 2011 Tiller’s Killer

What the murder of a late-term abortion doctor does and does not say about the anti-choice movement.

By Ed Kilgore

Unfortunately for pro-choicers— among whom I emphatically count myself—there is very little evidence that anti-abortion views will fade away anytime soon. The country as a whole may be moving on from the past (though it’s a past to which older white folks, as candidate Obama so unartfully put it in 2008, tend to “cling”). But in sharp contrast to public opinion trends on the other red-hot cultural issue of our times, same-sex marriage, there’s no sign that generational change is affecting opinion on abortion. The country is as divided on the fundamental issues as it was when Roe v. Wade was handed down—and, if anything, anti-choicers have gained some ground. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been in large part taken over by antiabortion activists, who hold an absolute veto over GOP presidential tickets and considerable power over Congress’s priorities, as demonstrated in the recent efforts of House Republicans to deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The antichoicers also presently have a realistic hope that the next president could appoint enough Supreme Court justices to overturn or sharply limit the right to choose.

The battle over abortion is far from over. While Singular’s book is a well wrought popular account of one incident in that battle, a clear accounting of where the battle stands awaits other writers.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, we have included a link for your convenience.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • jharp on May 18, 2011 1:51 AM:

    Good piece but I must add that your comments "challenge" is a real pain in the ass. Some of us don't see so good anymore.

    I rarely can see the test good enough to even bother trying.

  • matt w on May 18, 2011 9:36 AM:

    I don't think you can talk about the assassination of Tiller (and of other OB/GYNs like Barnett Slepian) without discussing the very real impact it has on the availability of abortion services.

    Furthermore, I think you have to discuss the ways the mainstream anti-abortion movement makes it easier for the fringe to operate. The clinic protesters and anti-abortion terrorists have a much easier time of it because of regulations forcing abortion services into special clinics and allowing demonstrators to harass patients. And the mainstream anti-abortion movement enthusiastically supports those regulations. If they really were concerned about anti-abortion terrorism, they would support efforts to make it harder. The way I see it, the anti-abortion movement talks out of both sides of its mouth on anti-abortion terrorism; they condemn it, but they have no problem with the way it makes access to abortion more difficult.

  • Rich on May 18, 2011 1:32 PM:

    No discussion of abortion rights should go without mention of the invisible ineffectual leadership on the pro-choice side. Tiller's murder should have provided a rallying cry and an opportunity for taking the moral high ground. Instead, we received the usual public statements and the lack of any organized follow-up that has characterized advocacy in this area. One can point out all the political advantages enjoyed by anti-abortionists, but none of them happened by themselves or overnight. getting new leadership needs to be part of an effective defense of abortion rights.