The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Oxford cancels student-group-organized debate on abortion,


after the student union "voted to inform College Censors about the mental and physical security issues surrounding the debate." The Cherwell reports:

In an email, JCR [Junior Common Room, the student union -EV] President Louise Revell told students, "Lottie (Richie, JCR Vice President), Gabriel (Henry, JCR Secretary) and I met with the censors earlier today and were informed that permission has not been given to OSFL to host their event in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre tomorrow.

"The reason is that there was insufficient time between today and tomorrow to address some concerns they had about the meeting arising from potential security and welfare issues, such as those discussed at last night's GM."

The Oxford Student has more coverage. A student writes in the Independent (Britain) about how proud she is of helping suppress the speech:

I helped shut down an abortion debate between two men because my uterus isn't up for their discussion ….

The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if its a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue. It may seem harmless for men like Stanley and O'Neil to debate how and if abortion hurts them; it's clearly harder for people to see that their words and views might hurt women….

Pretty appalling, but unsurprising. Tim Stanley, one of the intended debaters, also has a piece on the subject at the Telegraph (Britain):

I would've thought that the one place in Britain where you could agree to disagree amicably would be Oxford University. But I was wrong. For instance, I've discovered that you're only allowed to debate abortion there if a) you're a woman and b) you're all for it. Any other approach to the subject is liable to attract a mob….

What it also proved is that elements of the Left are working hard to define new parameters for freedom of speech. You are free to speak so long as it doesn't offend certain sensibilities, which of course amounts to no real freedom at all.

Thanks to Austin Lipari for the pointer.