Notre Dame Professor Sues Student Newspaper Over Her Pro-Abortion Advocacy

A University of Notre Dame sociology professor, Tamara Kay, is suing a college newspaper for defamation after the students wrote articles on her advocacy for abortion rights. The Irish Rover is an independent, conservative publication and the students are standing by their coverage.

A review of the complaint raises more questions than answers on the basis for this rare lawsuit against student journalists.  Indeed, the editors have doubled down and this week they ran a column declaring “Professor Kay’s allegations against the Rover are entirely false.” Their lawyers are reportedly preparing an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, claiming that Kay is seeking to intimidate student journalists. These motions are used by media because, as the Reporters Committee on the Freedom of the Press explained, “SLAPPs have become an all-too-common tool for intimidating and silencing criticism through expensive, baseless legal proceedings.” Yet, it is rare to see an academic accused of such harassing lawsuits.

Professor Kay has every right to protect her reputation through defamation actions and such lawsuits can protect against harassment and abuse by the media. The problem is that Kay is alleging statements as false that other journalists have found to be true or matters of interpretation. The complaint does not appear particularly compelling.

The complaint focuses on two Rover articles, including one that quoted Kay’s comments at a panel and a second article on comments Kay made at an event hosted by the Notre Dame College Democrats in March. However, National Review reviewed audio and other evidence and confirmed much of what the student journalists alleged with slight (but hardly defamatory) differences.

For example, the complaint raises an October 2022 article written by student editor Joe DeReuil titled “Keough School Professor Offers Abortion Access to Students.” However, the complaint fails to cite any specific examples of false statements included in the piece. A headline, however, can be the basis for a defamation action.

The panel event itself was “Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans,” the participants discussed how Indiana’s new pro-life law, S.B. 1, would be harmful to “marginalized groups.”

Kay is quoted as telling the Rover that “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].” However, Kay responded to the Rover by accusing the students of lying and insisting there was “absolutely no interview” with the Rover. However, DeReuil then produced a recording in which he reportedly clearly identifies himself as the editor of the Rover before asking her several questions

Kay also advocated abortion services through her Twitter account on which she identified herself as “Dr. Tamara Kay — Notre Dame abortion rights expert.” She also offered to “help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost. DM me [sic].”

She also reportedly posted a sign on her office door on campus that said, “This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access — confidentially with care and compassion.” The National Review reported that Kay’s non-Notre Dame email included information on how to reach her and told students to look for “a letter ‘J'” as a signal for helping with abortions: “Look for the ‘J’, Spread the word to students!”

Notably, the National Review reported that, after the Rover article, Kay changed her Twitter display name and “removed the signs from her office door and deleted her tweets about helping students access abortion.”

The lawsuit raises allegedly false statements made in a March 2023 article from the Rover written by student journalist Luke Thompson: “Tamara Kay Explains Herself to Notre Dame Democrats.”

Kay objects that she was falsely accused of “posting offers to procure abortion pills on her office door.” However, the National Review quotes a Notre Dame spokesman stating that in the case of the sign

“a reasonable person could understand Professor Kay to be giving medical advice (on becoming ‘unpregnant’ by taking abortion pills without knowing any details about an individual student’s health). This seemed unwise from both the perspective of faculty members and students.”

The recordings and media coverage also show that Kay made statements that seemed to track the views alleged by the student journalists even if there was some variation on the words.

It seems rather thin soup to sustain a defamation lawsuit against students or to support the claim that they are liable for her alleged  “suffer[ing] mentally and emotionally and experienced and continues to experience mental anguish and fear for her safety.” She is also seeking punitive damages.

Notably, New York magazine did a full report on the controversy in an article in The Cut titled “The Holy War Against One Pro-Abortion-Rights Professor: Tamara Kay has endured a vicious harassment campaign that she says Notre Dame won’t help curb.” The story features a sign with the J featured on her door.  The article declares that the newspaper “falsely claimed Kay was working ‘​​to bring abortion to Notre Dame students’ and distorted her comments at the September panel.”

I understand that Dr. Kay objects to the interpretation given her remarks and the headline “Keough School Professor Offers Abortion Access to Students.” However, the question is whether it goes beyond interpretation and warrants a defamation action. That will soon be the issue before the court as the student journalists seek a dismissal as an abusive effort to harass their newspaper.

Here is the complaint: Kay v. The Irish Rover

101 thoughts on “Notre Dame Professor Sues Student Newspaper Over Her Pro-Abortion Advocacy”

  1. In what world does defamation hinge on tiny differences over published text and a persons views ?

    Is Dr. Kay claiming that she is actually prolife and being defamed as pro-choice ?

    Dr. Kay is pro-choice and is using the law to demand that she only be identified as pro-choice in the pres if they represent her specific pro-choice position with precision that is an anethema to free speech.

  2. Notre Dame is a catholic school.. she should be fired. But then again the RCC has been sliding down the hole of debauchery and marxism for decades now

    1. At least it used to be a catholic school. They have become very left wing in recent years, but then so has the church.

  3. By calling the mutilation of a child “gender affirming care,” the Left plays games with words.

    By calling a fetus a “baby,” the religious Right plays games with words.

    How about using words objectively and precisely. Rather than as a means to satisfy a desire.

    1. @Sam

      Uh . . . a fetus is a baby. We are not talking about butterfly style metamorphosis with mammals, the womb is not a cocoon. That’s biology, not ‘religion’. Rest assured, it’s largely just the idiot left that plays these word games, and the secular among us are perfectly aware.

      1. “[A] fetus is a baby.”

        No, it’s not. That’s why there are two different words and two different classifications — one denoting unborn, the other born.

        1. Sam,
          If the fetus is not a baby then you can point me to a situation where a woman gave birth to an oak tree or something else not human.

          1. By that “reasoning,” you’re “free” to call a fetus a teenager or a senior citizen.

            Basic science: Living organisms have different stages of development. And there are different names for those different stages.

            The religious Right’s evasion of that fact is an attempt to politicize language. Worse, it’s an emotionalist attempt to alter the meaning of words.

    2. “By calling a fetus a “baby,” the religious Right plays games with words.”

      Sam, does that sound correct? No.

      Let’s listen to a conversation in colonial times in America.

      ‘You look like you are gaining weight.’

      Response: ‘I am going to have a baby.’

      That sounds logical. Do you think the women of the time said:

      ‘I’m going to have a fetus.’

      Doesn’t that sound peculiar?

      1. “Let’s listen to a conversation . . .”

        The meaning of a word is not determined by how a common person uses that word in a casual conversation.

        Further, an argument against abortion, that in fact turns on an equivocation between “fetus” and “baby,” is not a casual conversation. That equivocation is a deliberate attempt to pull at peoples’ heart strings.

        1. The use of the word baby throughout American history and probably elsewhere tells how humans perceive a baby (or a fetus). They perceive it as a child, not as a piece of glob floating around in some woman’s uterus.

          Using the word fetus is the left playing with words pretending that killing off that cancer (baby) is OK and concern about it is a waste of time. You inject words to change what is (a human life) to something it isn’t so you can have an abortion on demand with a clear conscience.

  4. Seems to me that if a person is old enough and smart enough to (a) be in college and (b) decide to have sex, then that person ought to be mature enough and responsible enough to (a) use birth control or, in the extremely rare event that fails (it’s not 1969 any more), then (b) research on their own and figure out what to do if there is a pregnancy — without needing “help” from an “artist”-cum-sociology professor who is neither a licensed therapist nor a medical provider and who apparently has internalized every bit of second wave 70s feminist propaganda and hysterics.

    (By the way, the woman has one rating — “awful” — on “Rate My Professors”. No one else apparently could be bothered to rate the sort of drivel that passes for some academic “studies” in universities these days. And here’s the professor’s DEI webpage: )

  5. “The Holy War Against One Pro-Abortion-Rights Professor”

    The standard for what constitutes a holy war has regrettably slipped to a new low.

  6. Jonathan: Your frequent columns attacking Hunter Biden and the alleged Biden family “corruption scandal” have found resonance with the MAGA Republicans in Congress. On cue they have engaged in a wide ranging investigation trying to prove your hypothesis. Hasn’t gone well so far. All the “whistleblowers” Jordan and Comer promised would support your claims have gone missing. But DJT has joined your attack. In a series of unhinged posts on Truth Social, TJT now calls for the death sentence for Hunter Biden. He says a “crackhead” is running the WH. He calls US Attorney David Weiss a “COWARD” for giving Hunter a “traffic ticket instead of a death sentence”.

    All this from a guy who faces 2 criminal indictments with more to come–the scheme to overturn the election in Georgia and Jack Smith’s imminent indictment of TJD and many others over Jan. 6. DJT is like a wounded bear–striking out at all his perceived enemies. DJT knows he is going down so he wants to cause as much chaos as possible on his way down.

    Now you would think Rupert Murdock would have learned something from the huge defamation payout to Dominion. Lies have consequences. But apparently he hasn’t because Fox hosts continue to lie. That should concern you because you work for Murdock. Prime example. On her show Fox host Maria Bartiromo falsely claimed to her GOP House guest: “Somebody’s lying in terms of the Hunter Biden investigation. And you’re not getting the witnesses you need because many of them are getting intimidated. Gal Luft was just indicted”. What Bartiromo conveniently ignores is that the DOJ originally charged Luft back in November of 2022–when the Democrats still controlled the House and long before the MAGA Republicans in the House began their investigations of the Biden family. Luft was arrested in Cyprus in February but skipped bail and fled. He is yet to be located. That’s why the DOJ issued its latest indictment of Luft. The indictment has nothing to do with trying to prevent Luft from testifying for the MAGA Republicans in the House. But it does show Jim Jordan and James Comer are desperate for anyone to testify in support of their spurious allegations–even someone who is a wanted for serious criminal offenses but can’t be located!

    1. “and the alleged Biden family “corruption scandal”

      It’s not “alleged,” darlin’.

    2. How do you explain the deals Joe and Hunter Biden were making with the same company Biden’s DOJ just indicted Luft for lobbying not being FARA registered? Luft gets indicted for FARA violations, but no FARA charges for Hunter? Go ahead, explain away.

  7. Jonathan: It seems counter-intuitive that you would side with the student newspaper over its attacks on Prof. Kay and the campaign of harassment and intimidation against Kay by elements on the ND campus. You even ignore the failure of the ND administration to protect Kay’s “free speech” rights and adequately respond to her security concerns.

    If Kay had been a conservative you no doubt would have taken a different position. We all know you would have written a column vigorously defending Kay’s “free speech” rights to advocate for her positions on and off campus. But in this case you defend the student newspaper and don’t mention the failure of the ND administration to adequately address Kay’s security concerns. Why do you take a different position when the target is a liberal who supports abortion rights? Doesn’t Kay deserve the same protections you would expect to be extended to conservatives? I guess not. In your world of “free speech” protections there is a double standard!

    1. Do you denny have any self awareness. of what you type here ?. Kay is a lying manipulator…caught lying minimally. She thinks deleting all her propaganda is akin to saying it never happened. Like a good leftist she attacks the people whom caught her outright. And you body politic is AOK with this ?.

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