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Medical Students Walked Out Of Their White Coat Ceremony In Protest Of An Anti-Abortion Speaker

Medical Students Walked Out Of Their White Coat Ceremony In Protest Of An Anti-Abortion Speaker

A university's refusal to replace an anti-abortion keynote speaker led students to storm out of their white coat ceremony

A university's refusal to replace an anti-abortion keynote speaker led students to storm out of their white coat ceremony.

Millions of women lost the legal right to a safe abortion when the Roe v Wade ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court on 24 June.

Many anti-abortionists have since taken the opportunity to broadcast their views,

However, on Sunday, 24 July, just moments before Dr Kristin Collier was about to begin her speech at the University of Michigan as a keynote speaker, dozens of students rose from their seats and left the auditorium in protest of her anti-abortion views which they discovered shared on her public Twitter account.

Catch a clip of the moment here:

Dr Collier is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and Director of the University of Michigan Medical School Program on Health Spirituality & Religion.

Prior to the ceremony, students at the university discovered she had shared anti-abortion views during a 'Pro-Life Feminism Panel Discussion' as well as on her own Twitter account, which states: "Views my own."

A petition was subsequently started to try and prevent Dr Collier from speaking at the ceremony.

The petition, titled 'UMMS Students and Alumni Demand an Alternative White Coat Speaker', calls Dr Collier's 'multiple anti-choice posts' and comments in interviews 'antithetical to the tenets of reproductive justice as restrictions on abortion affect women of colour, other marginalised women, and trans people disproportionately'.

It detailed that a 'recent poll of incoming M1's' revealed out of 96 respondents, 91.7 percent 'indicated that they were strongly against or against having Dr Collier as the speaker'.

Out of 89 respondents, 57 percent said they were considering 'not attending the White Coat Ceremony if she were kept on as the speaker'.

The petition noted it supports the 'rights of freedom of speech and religion' but that having an 'anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University’s position on abortion and supports the non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care'.

It reads: "This is not simply a disagreement on personal opinion; through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care. We demand that UM stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community.

"This speaker should inspire the next generation of healthcare providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities."

The petition - signed by 100 incoming students, 248 current students and 72 alumni, residents, physicians or graduate students - went on to exemplify just how many students strongly opposed Dr Collier speaking at the ceremony with testimonies.

"While I can respect freedom of speech, to give Dr Collier a platform in the current environment of the overturning of Roe v. Wade is frankly [inconsiderate of the current situation]… I think Dr Collier’s appearance at this time is inappropriate.

"Her appearance would be better suited for a learning opportunity or debate at a different time, not at a ceremony where families will be in attendance and potential resentment will sour the occasion," one wrote.

Another stated: "I’m already scared that I’ve chosen to attend school in a state where I may very well lose my right to a safe abortion, and the decision by UMMS to have Dr. Collier as a keynote speaker makes this even scarier. It makes me seriously doubt whether the school will continue to advocate for reproductive rights."

While also offering further reading on the matter, the petition concluded: "We demand that the University of Michigan listen to our voices! We demand that the University of Michigan support reproductive justice!! We demand an alternative speaker for this year’s White Coat Ceremony!!!"

Alas, the student's voices were ultimately disregarded and Dr Collier was allowed to take to the stage.

However, she didn't even get to open her mouth before a sea of students left the auditorium.

The video has provoked a divided response online.

Some have come out in support of Dr Collier, with one former student arguing how the professor's 'personal beliefs never came up during our humanism courses'.

However, one user resolved: "Good for these students, and what a shame that University of Michigan put them in that position. But students willing to take a stand will make good doctors."

A spokesperson from Michigan Medicine told UNILAD: "Kristin Collier, M.D., was chosen as the keynote speaker for the 2022 White Coat Ceremony based on nominations and voting by members of the U-M Medical School Gold Humanism Honor Society, which is comprised of medical students, house officers and faculty. 

 "The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues. Its focus will always be on welcoming students into the profession of medicine. Dr. Collier never planned to address a divisive topic as part of her remarks. However, the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs.

 "The University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine remain committed to providing high quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs. This includes abortion care, which remains legal in Michigan, even following the recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion. While the state of Michigan has a 1931 abortion ban on the books, a recent Michigan Court of Claims order has temporarily blocked enforcement of that ban. Michigan Medicine will continue to offer abortion care for patients."

For help, support and advice about abortion, contact the National Abortion Federation on 1-800-772-9100, EST 8am-7pm EST Monday to Friday or EST 8am-4pm EST Saturday to Sunday

Featured Image Credit: @PEScorpiio/Twitter/U-M Medical School White Coat Ceremony/YouTube

Topics: US News, Health