Yesterday there was supposed to have been a debate at Christ Church College in Oxford between two British writers whose work I have enjoyed, Tim Stanley and Brendan O’Neill. The topic was to have been whether the abortion culture harms Britain. Stanley was going to argue that the abortion culture harms Britain, though he was not going to argue that abortion should be made illegal in Britain. Stanley has published his prepared remarks at The Catholic Herald, and they are quite mild. Indeed, there is, unfortunately, little prospect that British law will again give the unborn the legal protection they enjoyed until Parliament passed the Abortion Act in 1967.

But the debate did not take place, because Christ Church bowed to the demands of the Oxford University Student Women’s Campaign and cancelled it. This seems shocking, given the long history of robust debate at Oxford, but it is actually merely one in a long line of depressing examples of the self-professed devotees of “tolerance” using their power to give effect to Marcuse’s dictum that “tolerance” does not extend to those who dissent from the demands of contemporary leftism. Abortion is now so sacred in some quarters that its morality or even its efficacy may not be questioned, even when its legality is assured. 

This is the ground on which the culture war increasingly will be fought. Although the media likes to portray the right as the aggressor in the culture war, the reality is different. It was the left, nor the right, that sought to overturn long-established legal strictures that reflected and reinforced Christian morality; conservatives were content to leave things as they were. Now that the left has achieved great success in overturning those legal strictures, many on the left now want to prevent any public expression of the moral beliefs that animated the laws they have overturned. Those of us who continue to subscribe to the old morality may be allowed to whisper our beliefs in our homes and in our churches—though the mayor of Houston did briefly seek to subpoena the sermons of pastors who opposed the city’s opening public restrooms to both sexes in the name of “transgender rights”—but those who shape our culture don’t want that whisper to grow too loud, as Tim Stanley just found it out.