Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Life and Death at Notre Dame

Professors at the University of Notre Dame are providing aid to students seeking abortions.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Cincinnati at Notre Dame

Two years after Father Edward Sorin founded the University of Notre Dame, he penned a plan for a statue of Our Lady that would gaze down upon the university, its students, and faculty—a golden protector and intercessor. Sorin’s 1844 note was short, but the vision was clear: “When this school, Our Lady’s school, grows a bit more, I shall raise her aloft so that, without asking, all men shall know why we have succeeded here. To that lovely Lady, raised high on a dome, a Golden Dome, men may look and find the answer.”

In time, Our Lady would rise above the Main Building. Her golden face unblemished, with pursed lips and a still stare. Her arms, open and receptive. Under her feet, the crescent moon and a writhing serpent. There have been rebuilds and remodels over more than a century and a half, but Our Lady’s watchful eye remains atop the iconic golden dome.


Today, 180 years since Father Sorin established the University of Notre Dame, university professors are providing material aid to students seeking abortions. Our Lady still watches. One wonders what she might think.

A report from the Irish Rover, an independent student publication on Notre Dame’s campus, published last Wednesday details efforts by Professor Tamara Kay of the Keough School of Global Affairs to assist students in obtaining abortions.

During a September 21 panel discussion titled “Post-Roe America: Making Intersectional Feminist Sense of Abortion Bans,” Kay opined about the supposed immorality and ineffectiveness of abortion bans, such as Indiana’s recently passed S.B. 1 (which has since been suspended by an injunction from a state judge), according to the Rover. Kay boasted of her efforts to assist students in finding abortion resources, openly flouting Church teaching and, by all appearances, the university’s mission statement.

“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 after the panel.

A sign posted on Kay’s university office door, the Rover reported, read, “This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access—confidentially with care and compassion.” Kay also provided personal contact information on the sign for students seeking such information to reach out.


Kay’s office door also is adorned with a capital “J” with a red circle around it, which has become a symbol for pro-choice university professors to signal to students that they are willing to help them obtain access to abortion services. “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!” a social media post from Kay read, according to the Rover.

Professors with a “J” posted on their door, the Rover reported, help students obtain morning-after pills, also known as Plan B, and "Plan C" medical abortion pills that can kill an unborn baby up to the end of the first trimester. While obtaining and taking Plan B abortion pills is still legal in Indiana, Notre Dame’s University Health Services, in line with the university’s Catholic mission and values, does not offer students chemical abortion products.

Much of Kay’s efforts to assist Notre Dame students in obtaining abortion services have taken place via social media. Her Twitter account name previously read, “Dr. Tamara Kay — Notre Dame abortion rights expert,” according to the Rover. Then it changed to “Dr. Tamara Kay: Abortion Rights & Policy Scholar.” Kay’s Twitter bio also said, in part, “I speak against bigotry. I don't speak for my employer (duh!).” The "(duh!)" has now been deleted, as well.

A September 16 tweet, which has since been deleted, affirms that not only is Kay helping students navigate Indiana’s abortion restrictions, but potentially providing financial support as well. “Will help as a private citizen if you have issues w access or cost. DM me,” the tweet read. Retweets on Kay’s twitter from accounts such as Abortion Finder and Catholics for Choice outlined how women could circumvent state laws and get abortion pills delivered to their door or reimbursed for crossing state lines to receive an abortion. 

At the September 21 panel, Kay encouraged students to “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.” 

“Everything I say should be understood in the context of the disproportionality of these policies on people, particularly people of color,” Kay added, according to the Rover.

Kay initially denied that she was assisting students in finding abortion resources when asked if her efforts were in line with Catholic teaching and university policy during the September 21 panel. “I am not actively doing that,” Kay said, despite her door sign, social media posts, and aforementioned admission that her views on abortion do run “afoul of Church teaching.” When pressed, however, Kay admitted that “Oh, I am doing that as a private citizen, so that’s been cleared by the university,” the Rover reported.

“I talked to the dean and have also spoken to N.D. Media about policies,” Kay added.

Inquiries sent by the Rover to Kay’s university email received an 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!

Before the Rover published its story, University Spokesperson Dennis Brown responded to a media inquiry with the following:

A number of people are traveling this week to Las Vegas. We’ll get back to you when we can.

That weekend, Notre Dame played BYU in Las Vegas. The Rover did not hear back. The American Conservative sent Notre Dame’s administration an inquiry of its own, but the university failed to reply.

Though the administration seems keen to ignore the story and questions about whether or not Kay, who teaches a course on Sesame Street as a condensed symbol of globalization, is deserving of her current position, students on Notre Dame’s campus won’t let the university forget the evil perpetrated by Kay and her comrades.

“The Catholic Church is clear on its stance. Abortion takes the life of a precious and beloved human being,” Merlot Fogarty, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, told TAC. Fogarty is a student activist spearheading the effort to put pressure on the university to uphold its commitments to life. Kay, Fogarty said, “has launched a public and deliberate attack on the truth that the Church teaches and the institution that she represents. She thinks that it is in the best interest of women on campus to subvert the law and take dangerous, chemical pills alone in their dorm room bathrooms. That is evil.”

For Fogarty, it is a sad truth that “the majority of our country is unaware of the reality of abortion, unaware of the brutal methods of dismemberment, poisoning, and vacuum suction that take the lives of the innocent every single day.” She fears that among even the most ostensibly pro-life segments of the population, such as Catholic students that attend Notre Dame, the brutal reality of abortion is being lost—in part, due to actors like Kay who infiltrate pro-life institutions and obfuscate the truth. 

“The goal of making the story public was not to silence or slander Professor Kay or her fellow faculty members, but instead to shed light on the campus situation and begin the discussion of what Notre Dame can, and should, be doing to protect women and children in our community,” Fogarty told TAC. 

“I pray every day for her and for others on her side of this debate,” Fogarty went on to say. “The battle currently unfolding in our nation is full of hatred and hostility, but the pro-life movement is rooted in love: love for children in the womb who deserve the legal protection of their lives, love for women who need care and support in unforeseen circumstances, and love for families, parents, children, and the blessing of familial love.”

Other students I spoke to on Notre Dame’s campus called Kay’s efforts “evil,” “disgusting,” and “wicked,” and said they have “no place on campus.” Yet, all expressed some kind of hope that the incident would change the narrative on campus in favor of life, with or without the administration's intervention. “People around here are really waking up to what’s going on with these crazy professors,” one sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, told me.

Joseph DeReuil, the Rover editor-in-chief who broke the story, told TAC that Kay’s vocal support for abortion came to his attention “last spring, when three friends of mine published an op-ed in National Review calling out the university for the promotion of her pro-abortion stance by advertising her writing for Salon, among other places, on the topic of abortion rights.”

“I hoped that bringing it to the attention of Notre Dame administrators by writing about it in a campus paper would influence them to make her stop promoting abortion on campus,” DeReuil said. “No professor at a Catholic university should be allowed to openly advocate for subverting clearly defined Catholic moral doctrine.” DeReuil, like many of his peers, hopes “the university can find reliable ways to assist pregnant students with resources that don’t involve the killing of their unborn child.”

I tried to pay Kay a visit while on Notre Dame's campus. She wasn't in her office, but since DeReuil’s reporting, Kay has taken down the sign on her office door that flouted Church teaching and Notre Dame’s values. The sign’s removal, just like the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe and gave the issue of abortion back to the American people's representatives, is a welcome development. But, also like Dobbs, it only means that Notre Dame’s pro-life students have a long, hard fight ahead of them, so that the university of Our Lady might once again live up to its namesake.