Notre Dame Professor Champions Legal Abortion

Published October 14, 2022

National Review

In the latest issue of the Irish Rover — Notre Dame’s independent student newspaper, for which I was an editor in undergrad — editor Joe DeReuil has an excellent article exposing the abortion advocacy of Notre Dame professor Tamara Kay, including her offer to help students obtain abortions illegally.

At a panel event at the university last month titled “Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans,” four Notre Dame professors argued that Indiana’s new pro-life law will be harmful to “marginalized groups.” One of those professors, Tamara Kay of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, has made no secret of her desire to connect students with chemical-abortion drugs, contrary to Indiana law.

“For me, abortion is a policy issue. And yes, my view runs afoul of Church teaching, but in other areas, my positions are perfectly aligned [with the Church],” Kay told the Rover in an interview after the panel event.

The panel failed to include a single pro-life perspective, making the event a public contradiction of Notre Dame’s position on the moral question of abortion, with no one present even to gesture at Catholic teaching on the dignity of human life. At the event, the director of Notre Dame’s gender-studies program noted that the university “calls for balance when sensitive but important topics such as the right to abortion are discussed on campus.” She went on to claim that offering materials about other relevant campus events constituted compliance with this policy: “To that end, we’ve been invited to provide a list of a few of the many scholarly events held on campus that reflect the university’s position on questions related to abortion. And you’re welcome to pick up one that we have here at the front ends when you exit.”

In 2006, Notre Dame published a Common Proposal, establishing guidelines for events hosted on campus. According to the document, department chairs “should aim at ensuring that a forum is provided in which multiple viewpoints and voices on controversial topics can be heard, an appropriate balance among viewpoints is maintained, and, when a significant issue in the Catholic tradition is touched upon, that tradition should be presented.”

This panel evidently was not in compliance with this policy. Meanwhile, since the event, Kay has gone on to make her willingness to materially aid students in obtaining abortions, contrary to relevant law, even more apparent. Her advocacy evidently contradicts Notre Dame’s mission as a Catholic university, but it seems she may also have violated the school’s ethical code of conduct. The university permits academic freedom for the exploration of ideas, facilitating classroom and campus discussion and debate, but according to DeReuil’s report, there appears to be a network of professors at Notre Dame, led by Kay, who have signaled to students that they will assist them in obtaining chemical-abortion drugs, despite Indiana’s restrictions. Here’s more from his report:

Kay used this panel as a platform to explain why she thought abortion bans are ineffective and immoral, complementing her work to bring abortion to Notre Dame students. Her initiatives began after Indiana S.B.1 — a law that banned abortion statewide — took effect September 15. She has continued since the law was suspended via injunction by a state judge while litigation takes place.

To this end, she posted a sign on her office door on campus stating, “This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access — confidentially with care and compassion,” providing her non-Notre Dame email by which students could reach her. Kay’s door also contained a capital letter, “J”.

The letter “J” on office doors denotes Notre Dame professors who are willing to help students access abortion. Kay explained in a social media post, “We are here (as private citizens, not representatives of ND) to help you access healthcare when you need it, and we are prepared in every way. Look for the “J”, Spread the word to students!”

These professors, including Kay, offer help in obtaining both Plan B “morning after” pills and “Plan C” abortion pills, which are efficacious up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

DeReuil goes on to detail how Kay backtracked somewhat over subsequent weeks, perhaps under internal pressure. She has claimed that she is conducting this activity in her capacity “as a private citizen” — despite the fact that she advertised about it on her office door. She also told the Rover that her advocacy had been “cleared by the university,” including “the dean and ND media.” Kay later changed her Twitter display name to “Dr. Tamara Kay — Abortion Rights & Policy Scholar” and included in her bio the sentence “I don’t speak for my employer (duh!).” She also removed the signs from her office door and deleted her tweets about helping students access abortion.

Nine days before publishing DeReuil’s article, Rover staff contacted Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown, requesting comment about whether Kay’s actions violate university policy. Brown replied, “A number of people are traveling this week to Las Vegas. We’ll get back to you when we can.” According to DeReuil, Brown never followed up. Meanwhile, the article says Rover staff contacted members of Notre Dame’s legal team about the matter and received no reply.

Notre Dame has for many years been at a crossroads, faced with a decision about whether to stand opposed to a culture at odds with the Catholic Church or to float along in the current of progressive ideology. As our country faces a renewed abortion debate in the wake of Roe v. Wade, the university is permitting faculty to engage in unapologetic abortion advocacy on campus without any counterbalance of the pro-life perspective. There is at least one professor employed by Notre Dame who is willing to actively assist students in violating the law against killing their unborn children. If the university administration remains silent about these blatant assaults on the dignity of human life from members of the Notre Dame community, it will be perhaps the worst sign yet about the university’s future.

EPPC Fellow Alexandra DeSanctis writes on culture and family issues, with a particular focus on abortion policy and pro-life advocacy, as a member of the Life and Family Initiative.

EPPC Fellow Alexandra DeSanctis writes on culture and family issues, with a particular focus on abortion policy and pro-life advocacy, as a member of the Life and Family Initiative.

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