A conservative-leaning student paper at the University of Notre Dame is facing a defamation lawsuit from a liberal professor who claims the paper's coverage of her pro-abortion activism was in bad faith and resulted in her harassment.
The Irish Rover is not backing down. Rather, the paper maintains its reports were true, and motivated by this apparent effort to shut them up, the student journalists emphasized Monday that "We Will Not Be Silenced" and are filing an Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the suit.
The Catholic university's tenured pro-abortion activist
Tamara Kay is a tenured professor of global affairs and sociology at Notre Dame. This University of California, Berkeley, alum is a committed pro-abortion activist whose writing on the subject has appeared in various liberal blogs and papers.
In March, she co-authored a piece claiming prohibitions on the abortion pill mifepristone "would be a terrible policy choice and violate human rights."
The article, which referred to expectant mothers as "pregnant people," called the abortion pill "the gold standard of treatment" and "safer than taking Tylenol."
In June 2022, Kay co-authored a piece claiming "women's lives are literally at stake" in the wake of the Dobbs ruling, adding that American activists should follow the lead of radicals in Latin America and Ireland whose "targeted and strategic activism that disrupts daily life for many" has helped "force legislators to protect the right to abortion for all."
In December 2022, she co-authored a piece denouncing efforts to "erode access to abortion" and claiming that abortion bans do not prevent abortion — a claim Texas has demonstrated to be false.
In the same counterfactual piece, Kay also dehumanized the unborn in two instances: first, claiming that the child in the womb is not a baby during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy; and second, claiming abortion is not dangerous, discounting its lethality to the unborn.
The professor further stressed in a recent screed for Salon that "abortion access is freedom-enhancing, in the truest sense of the word," adding that it is "consistent with integral human development that emphasizes social justice and human dignity."
Kay's views on abortion may be not be exceptional among the faculty at the pro-life Catholic university, though alum have strongly criticized her stances. Her views are, however, at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church, which unequivocally states that abortion is evil and "gravely contrary to the moral law."
As a result of the disconnect between her purported religiosity and her activism, faithful adherents to the church's teaching at the university have taken interest, particularly student journalists at the Irish Rover.
The Irish Rover's coverage
The Irish Rover published two articles that got Kay's dander up: an October 2022 piece by W. Joseph DeReuil, the former editor in chief of the student paper, and a March 2023 piece by Luke Thompson, the politics editor of the Rover, reported the Daily Signal.
In his Oct. 12 piece, DeReuil detailed Kay's remarks at a Sept. 21, 2022, panel entitled, "Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans."
"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," wrote DeReuil. "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"
The article included a photograph of Kay's office door, which had an LGBT activist "ally" sticker along with a sign that read, "This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access - confidentially and with care & compassion," with the letter "J" in bold and encircled.
DeReuil indicated that the encircled "J" "denotes Notre Dame professors who are willing to help students access abortion," adding that Kay had posted online, "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!"
This support allegedly took the form of offers to help students obtain abortion pills and Plan B pills.
The National Catholic Register reported that in a Sept. 16, 2022, tweet on her now-deleted account, Kay wrote, "Will help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost. DM me."
DeReuil claimed that Kay retweeted posts from "Abortion Finder" and "Catholics For Choice" from the same social media account, detailing ways "on how to reimburse costs for traveling out of state to obtain an abortion and how to get abortion pills by mail."
Kay reportedly told the Rover she was "not actively" promoting abortion, but then conceded, "I am doing that as a private citizen, so that's been cleared by the university."
The article further noted that Kay claimed indicated her view on abortion "runs afoul of Church teaching, but in other areas, my positions are perfectly aligned [with the Church]."
Thompson's March 22 article referenced a number of the claims made in DeReuil's article and discussed Kay's pro-abortion remarks at a March 7 College Democrats event concerning "women's rights issues."
According to the Rover, Kay's lawyer wrote DeReuil in early April, notifying him of her intent to sue for defamation and demanding that the paper retract the two articles so as to "mitigate damages that may be awarded or recovered in the case."
"An apologize [sic] should also be offered to Dr. Tamara Kay," said the letter.
After raising over $12,000 for legal assistance to sue the student paper via a GoFundMe campaign, Kay ultimately filed her lawsuit on May 22, alleging the articles penned by DeReuil and Thompson contained false and defamatory information.
The complaint confirmed that the photograph in DeReuil's article was in fact one of Kay's door but suggested that the message thereon was not, contrary to the former editor's suggestion, an offer to "procure abortion pills."
Kay's suit also suggested that the article falsely stated that a student asked the professor about how she squares her support of abortion with the university's commitment to upholding the "sanctity of human life from conception to natural death," suggesting that no such exchange occurred, and further alleged the Rover's report "contains numerous other inaccuracies and false statements."
As a consequence of the Rover's reports, the suit claims Kay has "been harassed, threatened, and experience damage to her residential property" extra to suffering "mentally and emotionally."
The fighting Irish
DeReuil told the Daily Signal that everything the paper published was and is true: "I know that everything we published is true and written in good faith, so I firmly believe that the lawsuit can only be decided in favor of The Irish Rover."
"Through all of complaints professor Kay has offered against the Rover, and even in the law suit itself, it has remained unclear to me what she is objecting to in my presentation of the facts of her abortion advocacy," said DeReuil. "The Rover’s reporting simply brought these facts to the attention of the pro-life parts of the Notre Dame community."
DeReuil told the Daily Caller the Irish Rover is filing an anti-[strategic lawsuits against public participation] motion to dismiss the suit "because we believe that there is no merit to any of Professor Kay’s claims, so we hope to put this lawsuit behind us as quickly as possible in order to reestablish our focus on promoting Notre Dame’s Catholic identity."
In a defiant op-ed Monday, the Rover stated, "Professor Kay’s allegations against the Rover are entirely false. ... And her lawsuit reflects only the latest stage in a tenured professor's baseless public campaign against undergraduates at her own university who had the temerity to publish accurate stories about her very public abortion advocacy."
The paper indicated that despite Kay's claims that she was not interviewed by the Rover, it has a recording of a conversation with the professor, wherein the former editor introduces himself as "Joe DeReuil, the editor of the Irish Rover," before asking questions.
Kay previously admitted to the leftist publication the Cut that she had in fact fielded questions from DeReuil, but cited her pro-abortion activist co-author Susan Ostermann, then present, as a witness to seeing no recording device or notation.
Grayson Quay, editor of the Daily Caller, noted that Kay can "clearly be heard making" statements she now denies having made on tape and that her "lawsuit is dead on arrival. No idea what she was thinking."
Eric Kniffin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote, "This is a prime example of why we have anti-SLAPP laws. Shame on this @NotreDame prof for threatening students for accurately reporting on her pro-abortion advocacy."
The Rover concluded its defiant article, "The Rover will not apologize for just and truthful reporting that helps Our Lady’s University stay true to its Catholic mission."
The Daily Signal noted that neither Kay nor Notre Dame had responded to requests for comment.
This story has been updated.
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