Medical students leave ceremony as pro-abortion protest in Michigan

Dozens of students from the medical school of the University of Michigan they staged a walkout this weekend in the middle of their white coat ceremony, shortly after the keynote speaker, a well-known anti-abortion doctor, began her speech.

Videos from the annual ceremony held at the Michigan institution’s Hill Auditorium caught Dr. Kristin Collier, an assistant professor of medicine at the university and a self-proclaimed anti-abortion physician, beginning her speech at the podium as rows of students in white coats and other guests were beginning to leave the building.

Students at the medical school had previously petitioned the school’s dean, Dr. Marschall Runge, to have Dr. Collier, who is also director of the university’s Health, Spirituality and Religion program, removed from the ceremony. annual. They cited her comments as “antithetical to the principles of reproductive justice”.

“While we support the rights of free speech and religion, an anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University’s position on the abortion and supports theology-based, non-universal platform to restrict access to abortion, an essential part of health care,” the letter read.

“We demand that UM stand in solidarity with us and select a speaker whose values ​​align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community.”

The letter also included anonymous quotes from students who had joined the protest, many of whom mentioned that Dr. Collier’s election led them to “seriously doubt whether the school will continue to advocate for reproductive rights.”

“I am already scared that I have chosen to attend school in a state where I very well could lose my right to a safe abortion, and UMMS’s decision to have Dr. Collier as a keynote speaker makes this even scarier.” a student was quoted in the request letter.

“I attend UMMS in large part because of its progressive approach to healthcare and education, and the choice to have Dr. Collier as a keynote speaker makes me question my decision,” another student wrote.

The petition, however, failed. Dr Runge wrote a letter in response to the “positive and negative feedback” he received after naming Collier as keynote speaker, noting that academic freedom outweighed any qualms individual students might have about a person’s personal ideas. .

“The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform to discuss controversial issues, and Dr. Collier never planned to address a divisive issue as part of her remarks,” Dr. Runge began. “Our values ​​speak of honoring the critical importance of diversity of personal thought and ideas, which is fundamental to academic freedom and excellence. We wouldn’t revoke a speaker because they have different personal ideas than others,” he concluded, before adding that a forum on the “importance of diversity of thought” was being planned in medical school, which will soon be announced. know more details.

Shortly after the white coat ceremony ended and protesting students poured out of the building, Dr. Collier apparently addressed the controversy surrounding her keynote address in a tweet posted Sunday, without specifically quoting him, in which she wrote : “[estoy] really grateful for the support, emails, messages, prayers and letters that I have received from all over the world about the event that will happen today. I feel so supported by that. And to my team who have supported me daily through this: I love you.”

During her speech, which was preceded by the 168 medical students receiving their white coats and reciting the White Coat Pledge, Dr. Collier again appeared to hint at the dispute leading up to her speech. However, she never directly addressed her request to be removed from the list.

“I want to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered in recent weeks,” Collier told the to start his speech, which did not address the issue of abortion. “We have a lot of work to do for healing to happen, and I hope that for today, this time, we can focus on what matters most: coming together to support our newly accepted students and their families in welcoming them to a one of the most important vocations that exist on this earth”.

In Michigan, patients seeking an abortion must receive state-directed counseling, which includes information designed to discourage the person from continuing with the procedure. They must then wait 24 hours before they can have the abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Although abortion is legal in the state of Michigan, since the annulment of Roe vs. Wade Last month, abortion advocates were concerned that the procedure could become a felony because of a 1931 law that would ban almost all cases in which the procedure is performed.

In April, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Dr. Sarah Wallett filed a lawsuit seeking to block the 1931 law from taking effect in the state. In May, the Michigan Court of Claims granted a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

Until a decision is made on this, the 1931 law cannot enter into force, according to Michigan Radio. However, the Michigan Right to Life, Michigan Catholic Conference and two prosecutors have asked the appeals court to strike down that injunction, which would effectively bar the proceeding.

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