Medical Students Walk Out of White-Coat Ceremony To Protest Anti-Abortion SpeakerJuly 26, 2022
Incoming medical students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor walked out of a white-coat ceremony on Sunday in protest of the university’s decision to invite a keynote speaker who has expressed pro-life views, according to a video posted on Twitter.
First-year medical students exited the ceremony, which is a welcoming event for the nearly 170 members of the incoming class, at the start of keynote address from Kristin Collier, MD, a professor of medicine at University of Michigan Medicine. The students said that Collier, who also serves as the director of health spirituality and religion at the medical school, expressed anti-choice rhetoric in social media posts and interviews, citing her comments as the reason they chose to walk out on the ceremony.
Prior to the event, more than 420 incoming medical students, current students, and alumni from the university signed a petition urging the school to choose an alternative keynote speaker for the white-coat ceremony. According to the petition, 91% of 96 incoming first-year medical students were opposed to having Collier as their keynote speaker.
“While we support the rights of freedom of speech and religion, 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,” the petition stated. “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.”
Collier has referenced her anti-choice views in social media posts and public interviews, according to the petition. The document cited a post on Twitter in which Collier said that in a view of feminism that “fights for the rights of all women and girls,” she must “lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy.”
The students said that Collier’s comments “are antithetical to the tenets of reproductive justice as restrictions on abortion affect women of color, other marginalized women, and trans people disproportionately.”
Mary Masson, the director of public relations at the University of Michigan, told MedPage Today in a statement that the university “does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal belief.”
Masson said that Collier was nominated to speak at this year’s white-coat ceremony by an honor society comprised of medical students and faculty, adding that that the ceremony is not meant to be a platform for controversial issues but rather a welcoming to the profession of medicine.
However, she stated that “the University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine remain committed to providing high quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs,” which includes abortion care.
Currently, abortion remains legal in Michigan. The state does have a 1931 abortion ban on the books, however a Michigan Claim of Courts order has blocked that ban from being enforced for the time being.