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Not so very long ago, many of my students would be angered by the mere suggestion that there might be anything morally problematic about abortion.  A decade or two later, the suggestion that abortion might be wrong is much less likely to provoke anger, and a greater proportion of my students concede that the practice is at least morally suspect.  So is the pro-life side gaining?

In that way, yes.  But now the plot thickens.  Fewer and fewer of the young people I meet on either side of the abortion controversy consider it a major issue any more.  These days, what stirs student emotion is the suggestion that there might be anything morally problematic about extreme sexual promiscuity.

That’s especially interesting, because for a while, attitudes toward sexual promiscuity had been going in the other direction.  I don’t mean behavior was becoming more chaste; quite the contrary.  But students were also becoming much more willing to acknowledge the tawdriness and emptiness of the hookup scene.  Sometimes they even expressed relief merely to hear that there might be a rational basis for traditional sexual ethics.

These days I hear such comments less often.  Mind you, people don’t claim that promiscuity is working for them, but they are angrier and more defensive when someone suggests that it may not be.  Not many students on the other side are willing to speak up publically.  The result is that I hear one point of view in the classroom, and an entirely different point of view during office hours.

Yet an underground movement is growing.  In 2005, students at Princeton University founded the Anscombe Society, named after the famous twentieth-century English analytical philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, for the purpose of affirming “the importance of the family, marriage, and a proper understanding for the role of sex and sexuality.”  From this seed sprang the Love and Fidelity Network, a growing alliance of student groups which now has a presence at 39 universities, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, Duke, UCLA, and the Universities of Wisconsin and Virginia.

These students aren’t angry, but they are very tough and smart.  Could it be that the little worm is turning?