On Sunday, July 24, incoming medical students at the University of Michigan Medical School recited oaths and received their white coats—then dozens of them abruptly walked out. The reason for this sudden departure was the keynote speaker, Dr. Kristin Collier. The Michigan faculty member and primary care physician has been vocal about her anti-abortion views; the walkout was in protest of those views in light of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
In a viral video shared by Brendan Scorpio, a swath of incoming medical students rise from their seats right before Collier begins speaking. As she is wishing the crowd a good afternoon, the group of students walks with their backs toward the stage and out of the auditorium. Scorpio guessed that about 70 of the 170 students left early, in addition to friends and family.
“We saw an opportunity to utilize our position as future physicians to advocate for and stand in solidarity with individuals whose rights to bodily autonomy and medical care are endangered,” the organizers of the walkout remarked. “We hope to empower others, especially health professionals, and encourage them to find and use their voices.”
Collier has made her anti-abortion views known on Twitter and in the media. Prior to the ceremony, students called on the school to choose another keynote speaker and presented a signed petition from current and incoming students, physicians, as well as alumni. The petition included data from a poll that found that 91.7% were against Collier as a keynote speaker. A group of students also “made a personal request” to Collier to step down, to no avail.
“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,” the petition states. “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. In order to ‘do no harm,’ we must be unambiguous and consistent in our commitment to all aspects of human rights.”
The University of Michigan responded to the controversy in a statement about the event itself. “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,” the university expressed. “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.”
Brendan Scorpio captured this viral video of medical students at the University of Michigan Medical School staging a walkout during their White Coat Ceremony.
Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan’s white coat ceremony as the keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion pic.twitter.com/Is7KmVV811
— Scorpiio (@PEScorpiio) July 24, 2022
The reason for this departure was the keynote speaker, Dr. Kristin Collier. She has been vocal about her anti-abortion views; the walkout was in protest of those views in light of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I can’t not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy.
— Kristin Collier (@KristinCollie20) May 4, 2022
h/t: [BuzzFeed News]