Screenshot by NPR; Video: Brendan Scorpion
On Sunday night, at the University of Michigan Medical School’s annual white coat ceremony, incoming medical students recited oaths, received their white coats — and then dozens walked out.
At issue was the keynote speaker: Dr. Kristin Collier, a Michigan faculty member and primary care physician who spoke publicly about her Christian beliefs and anti-abortion views.
In video posted online, dozens of students can be seen exiting the auditorium as Collier began his speech. The video, recorded and posted by Detroit resident Brendan Scorpio, has been viewed more than 11 million times.
Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan white coat ceremony as keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion pic.twitter.com/Is7KmVV811
— Scorpio (@PEScorpio) July 24, 2022
In an interview with NPR, Scorpio, who attended the ceremony to support a friend in the new class of medical students, estimated that about 70 of the 170 incoming students walked out, followed by a few friends and family.” out of solidarity”.
In total, he guessed, 35-40% of the public participated in the walkout.
“The general message the students wanted to get across was that reproductive rights, abortion, is health care,” Scorpio said. “The reproductive rights of anyone capable of giving birth are extremely important and should be allowed for everyone in the country.”
In an emailed statement, the University of Michigan said Collier was chosen for the keynote address through a system of nominations and voting by a medical school honor society.
“The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues,” the school statement read. “Dr. Collier never intended to address a controversial topic as part of his remarks. However, the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to speak based on his personal beliefs.”
The university remains “committed to providing safe, high-quality reproductive care to patients, for all of their reproductive health needs,” including abortion care, the statement said.
Collier served on the Michigan faculty for 17 years, according to her introduction by a dean, who described her as an “extremely popular” teacher and doctor. She is the director of the Health, Spirituality and Religion program at the medical school.
Collier is a frequent speaker and panelist on issues of bioethics and the role of spirituality in health care. On her Twitter, she wrote about racism, ageism and ableism in medicine and advocated for better access to health care for incarcerated people and residents of rural America.
But it is her anti-abortion comments that have come under intense scrutiny from Michigan medical students.
In an interview with a Catholic newsletter Posted last month, Collier said she was raised in a non-religious home and came to Christianity – and her current anti-abortion views – as an adult, after finishing medical school. and become a doctor.
“[H]to a vision of feminism where we fight for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are the most vulnerable. I cannot but deplore the violence directed against my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy”, Necklace wrote in the days following the release of a draft Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
cling to a vision of feminism that fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I cannot but deplore the violence directed against my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy.
— KristinCollie (@KristinCollie20) May 4, 2022
“A liberation that costs innocent lives is only an oppression that is redistributed,” she concluded.
After medical school officials invited her to speak at the ceremony, students circulated a petition asking for a change of speaker, citing anti-abortion comments in his tweets and public appearances. More than 400 students, alumni and professors are said to have signed it.
“Anti-choice speaker as University of Michigan representative undermines University’s stance on abortion and supports non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access” , wrote the authors of the petition.
Abortion is legal in Michigan, although the procedure is subject to a number of restrictions, including a post-viability ban, except when the mother’s life is in danger. Women wishing to have an abortion in Michigan are subject to an “informed consent” law and must wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.
In his Sunday remarks, Collier did not specifically mention abortion. Instead, she urged incoming students to retain their humanity throughout their medical training and careers.
truly grateful for the support, emails, texts, prayers and letters I have received from around the world regarding the event that will be happening today. I feel so empowered by that. and for my team who carried me daily through this – love you
— KristinCollie (@KristinCollie20) July 24, 2022
“You can easily end up seeing your patients as a bag of blood and bones, or seeing life as molecules in motion,” she said. “Get to know your patients as human beings, not just as their scans, labs, chemistry and data.”
Ahead of the ceremony, apparently in response to news of the petition calling for her removal as keynote speaker, Collier wrote on Twitter that she felt “truly grateful for the support, emails, texts, prayers and letters I received from all over the world.
“[I] feel so empowered by it. and to my team who carried me through this everyday, love you,” she wrote.
Collier did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.