Notre Dame University. / Matt B. via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) CNA
Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).
A sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame is suing the student newspaper there over reports that depicted her as supportive of abortion rights, with the instructor claiming that the paper misrepresented her on multiple occasions.
Tamara Kay filed the suit against the university newspaper, The Irish Rover, in response to two articles, one from October and one from March, that reported on the professor’s pro-abortion activism, including her alleged efforts to help students obtain both emergency contraception and abortifacients.
The lawsuit, filed in St. Joseph County, Indiana, alleges that the reports “falsely attribut[e]” statements to her that “are defamatory per se and establish a willful intent to portray [her] in a negative and disparaging manner.”
Kay’s filing cites numerous quotes and details in the reports that the professor says were inaccurate, including a description of a sign on her university office door that, according to The Rover, offered students assistance with procuring abortion drugs.
The suit claims that in the wake of the reports, Kay “has been harassed, threatened, and experienced damage to her residential property” and has “suffered mentally and emotionally and experienced and continues to experience mental anguish and fear for her safety.”
Kay was unavailable for comment. An email to her Notre Dame account was returned with a message that the email address “has been changed” due to the controversy. A phone number associated with her university office was not working as of press time.
Joseph DeReuil, who wrote the October story named in the suit, told CNA that it was “unclear to me what [Kay] objects to in my presentation of the facts of her abortion advocacy.”
“The Rover’s reporting simply brought her already public advocacy to the attention of the pro-life parts of the Notre Dame community, adding minimal context through her own statements to the Rover,” DeReuil said.
“I am not at all worried about the result of the lawsuit,” he added. “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.”
Kay, in a statement on her personal website, said that there is “significant and extensive documentary and witness evidence of the meetings, communications, and interactions pertaining to all that has transpired, and in time that will be clear.”
“This is not and has never been about me,” she claimed in the statement, adding that her political advocacy is “at the core of how I try to live my deep faith every day and cannot be undermined by threats, abuse, and harassment.”
On her university webpage, Kay says her work has involved “global health, including health systems and organizations, culture and health, and reproductive health and rights.” The National Catholic Register noted last year that following the start of the controversy, Kay “removed all references to Notre Dame from her Twitter bio.”
DeReuil told CNA that the Rover plans to file an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A “strategic lawsuit against public participation” is a lawsuit meant to silence media outlets via the use of frivolous legal filings.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press defines an anti-SLAPP motion as one meant to “prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
DeRuil expressed confidence that the Rover’s motion would prevail. “Because Kay’s claims are baseless, we wish to put this behind us as quickly as possible so that we can reorient our focus upon promoting the Catholic identity of Notre Dame,” he said.
On Tuesday, meanwhile, the Rover published an editorial in which the paper declared bluntly: “We Will Not Be Silenced.”
“[T]he articles discussing Professor Kay’s abortion advocacy were fair and accurate in all respects,” the paper said. “The record will confirm this beyond dispute.”