Abortion assistance offered to students despite IN law, ND policy

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],” Prof. Tamara Kay of the Keough School of Global Affairs told the Rover following the September 21 panel, “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. 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.

Plan B abortion pills have remained legal in Indiana, but they are not offered to students by University Health Services. Kay, in reference to these pills, tweeted on September 16 from her account named, “Dr. Tamara Kay — Notre Dame abortion rights expert”: 

“Will help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost. DM me [sic].” 

Much of Kay’s efforts to help students obtain abortion services have been directed through her personal social media.

From the same account, she retweeted posts from “Abortion Finder” and “Catholics for Choice,” which explained how to reimburse costs for traveling out of state to obtain an abortion and how to get abortion pills by mail, especially where doing so is against the law. In another September 16 Twitter post, Kay shared photos of “Need to be un-pregnant” stickers with QR codes that led to “PlanCPills.org,” preceded by the text, “DM me if you want some physical stickers. A lot have been ordered. Sharing information is still legal in Indiana!”

The Post-Roe America panel noted above was allowed on Notre Dame’s campus, but, as Barbara Green, director of Gender Studies at Notre Dame, explained at the outset, “The University of Notre Dame calls for balance when sensitive but important topics such as the right to abortion are discussed on campus.”

To fulfill their obligation to “reflect the university’s position on questions related to abortion,” Green continued, “we’ve been invited to provide a list of a few of the many scholarly events held on campus, and you’re welcome to pick one up at the front when you exit.”

At the panel, Prof. Kay told the audience that she would spend her time on the panel “debunking some of those myths” about abortion. She continued, “But keep in mind that the horrific effects of abortion bans I’m about to regale you with disproportionately affect people in minority groups: black, indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQIA, those with few resources, those who are incarcerated, those in the military, those who are on campus, those who are immigrants, those who have disabilities and physical and mental health challenges, including substance use disorder.” Continuing, “Everything I say, should be understood in the context of the disproportionality of these policies on people, particularly people of color.”

When asked whether she believed her promotion of abortion was acceptable according to Church teaching and Notre Dame policy, Kay initially responded, “I am not actively doing that.” But when pushed on the matter, she clarified, “Oh, I am doing that as a private citizen, so that’s been cleared by the university … I talked to the dean and have also spoken to ND Media about policies.”

When asked whether Kay’s actions were in accord with university policy—nine days before the publishing of this article—University Spokesperson Dennis Brown responded, “A number of people are traveling this week to Las Vegas. We’ll get back to you when we can.” He never added any further clarification. 

Despite this initial public stance detailed above, in the weeks since the panel and the above-cited social media posts, Kay has changed her positioning on the issue.

Even initially, she claimed to be acting as a private citizen rather than in her capacity as a professor, but Kay further dissociated her Twitter account from Notre Dame during the week of September 26, changing her Twitter name to “Dr. Tamara Kay — Abortion Rights & Policy Scholar,” with her Twitter bio noting, “I don’t speak for my employer (duh!).” Furthermore, the signs on her office door were removed, and all tweets directly referencing abortions for students were deleted.

Emails sent to her Notre Dame email at this time receive the auto-generated response, “Dear Friends and Colleagues, Notre Dame police are monitoring and curating this email account so it may take a bit longer than normal for me to get back to you. Apparently, white nationalist Catholic hate groups are not happy with my academic work on reproductive health, rights, and justice. But ND supports my academic freedom, so if you are interested, check out my website below. Have a wonderful day!”

Since initially removing the above-cited tweets, Kay has continued posting about abortion—for instance, noting on October 3, “World Health Organization policy: ‘WHO recommends that individuals in the first trimester (up to 12 weeks pregnant) can self-administer mifepristone & misoprostol medication without direct supervision of a health-care provider,’” among other posts.

Several members of the University of Notre Dame legal team were contacted regarding the legality of Professor Kay’s actions, none of whom responded. 

W. Joseph DeReuil is a junior studying philosophy and classics. He is probably on the phone with one of his six siblings or his parents right now, but when he is done, he will respond to any query sent to wdereuil@nd.edu.

[Editor’s note: The university addressed and resolved this issue shortly after the publication of this article]

Photo Credit: WNDU News