A Catholic university has no business institutionally elevating voices favorable to abortion

In the aftermath of the unprecedented Supreme Court leak, pundits, lawyers, and intellectuals across the country rushed to comment on the event and the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. Professors at Notre Dame, often at the top of their respective fields, were no exception.

Tamara Kay and Susan L. Ostermann, professors in Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, wrote a piece titled “Forced pregnancy and childbirth are violence against women — and also terrible health policy” in Salon. In the piece, they argue that overturning Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey “will destroy lives and futures.”

According to them, without abortion access, women will have to endure “forced pregnancy and childbirth,” which these professors claim is “sexual abuse” and violence against women. They continue: “There exists no other comparable situation in which a human being . . . is forced to undergo a potentially traumatic and even deadly medical event against their will.” They also decry a lack of access to abortion for minority groups. According to the authors, “unwanted” minority children whose parents wanted to abort them but who were denied access represent “another form of violence” against minorities.

Kay and Ostermann, along with Tricia C. Bruce, an affiliate of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society, published a second piece, this one in the Los Angeles Times, titled, “Pregnancy is risky. Losing access to abortion puts women’s lives at stake.” They urged lawmakers to “ensure that women continue to have access to lifesaving healthcare” and argued that “abortion saves lives.” The piece asserts that “the most important predictor of how well women and children do in terms of health and economic outcomes is family planning and access to contraception and abortion.”

Following the release of these articles, Notre Dame News shared the Salon article both on its Twitter page and its website. Kay retweeted ND News’ share, tagging Notre Dame’s official Twitter page, along with the caption: “Three @NotreDame women faculty/affiliates write op-ed on how dangerous it will be to overturn Roe v. Wade.” ND News also shared the professors’ LA Times article.

Notre Dame News operates as a branch under the University’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications, the purpose of which is to “maintain the University’s partnerships with the local and regional communities” and “advance the University’s reputation through media relations and marketing activities.”

Notre Dame’s official policy as a Catholic institution is to promote a culture of life. “Consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church on such issues as abortion … and other related life issues, the University of Notre Dame recognizes and upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death,” Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins has said in the past.

ND News did share articles on both sides of the abortion debate. The account posted two pieces from Professor O. Carter Snead, a pro-life bioethicist and professor at Notre Dame Law School, as well as author of What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, which explores the ethical, legal, and social dimensions of abortion, euthanasia, and IVF.

ND News shared a link to Snead’s Washington Post piece titled “The leak shows why abortion policy should be returned to the states,” arguing that Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion should not be something to fear because, “We need not be afraid to govern ourselves in this domain.” The account also shared a New York Times article titled “Ten Books to Understand the Abortion Debate in the United States” that included Snead’s most recent book with NYT commenting, “With insight and provocation, Snead, a bioethicist, examines the questions that abortion raises about the meaning of human life.”

Even though ND News posted pro-life commentary, Notre Dame should not hide behind a veil of supposed “neutrality.” Abortion is a direct, intentional attack on the dignity of human life, and we cannot tolerate it under any circumstances. Notre Dame presents itself to the world as a Catholic pro-life institution, but it has promulgated the pro-abortion narrative under the guise of promoting professors’ work.

Individuals look to institutions for guidance and stability, especially in a tumultuous political climate. Notre Dame fails to provide witness to its Catholic mission when its public-facing offices elevate false and immoral arguments in one of the most important moral debates before us. Notre Dame must give witness to the truth of the Catholic faith at all times and take a consistently Catholic stance on this grave issue. Anything else is unacceptable.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended since its initial publication.

Editor’s note: The following piece appeared at National Review Online on May 31, 2022. We thank NRO for allowing us to reprint this piece.

Merlot Fogarty is a junior at Notre Dame. She is president of Notre Dame Right to Life and a staff writer for the Irish Rover.

Francine Shaft is a recent graduate of Notre Dame and president emerita of Notre Dame Right to Life.

Sean Tehan is a recent graduate of Notre Dame, where he served on the executive board of Notre Dame Right to Life and as politics editor for the Irish Rover.