Kristin Collier: Michigan medical students walk out of induction ceremony to protest keynote speaker with anti-abortion views

As Dr. Kristin Collier, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the university, began to deliver her commencement address, several dozen students abruptly stood up and began to exit the auditorium, video shows. Some members of the public can also be seen leaving.

Ahead of Sunday’s white coat ceremony, in which incoming medical students are masked in their first medical gowns, some students had asked the school to replace Collier with another speaker, citing his anti-abortion views.

“While we support the rights to free 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 platform no universal and rooted in theology to restrict access to abortion, an essential part of medical care,” the petition read.

Medical student Elliott Brannon, who helped organize the petition, told CNN that more than 300 medical students signed it. The walkout and petition were primarily organized by incoming medical students with support from current students, Brannon said.

“This is not merely a disagreement over a personal opinion,” the petition reads. “(T)By our demand, we stand in solidarity against groups that attempt to suppress human rights and restrict medical care.”

Collier, who also directs the medical school’s program on health, spirituality, and religion, has previously expressed anti-abortion views, including in a 4th may tweet.

“(H)olding on a vision of feminism that fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I cannot but lament the violence directed against my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy,” the tweet read, later adding, β€œLiberation that costs innocent lives is just oppression that is redistributed.”

The university told CNN that Collier was chosen to be the keynote speaker by members of the medical school’s Gold Humanism Honor Society. In a statement, the university maintained its decision to retain her as a speaker for the event.

“The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussing controversial issues,” the statement said. “His goal will always be to welcome students into the medical profession. Dr. Collier never planned to address a controversial topic as part of his remarks. However, the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker according to his personal convictions.

The university also reiterated that its reproductive care always includes abortion.

“The University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine remain committed to providing safe, high-quality reproductive care to patients, for all of their reproductive health needs. This includes abortion care,” the statement read.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal in Michigan. While the state had banned abortion in 1931, the restriction is temporarily blocked by a state court.

CNN contacted Collier for comment but did not receive a response.

Collier said at the ceremony that she was honored to have been chosen to speak. Before giving a speech to the incoming students on how to survive and thrive in the medical field, she appeared to nod at the controversy.

“I want to acknowledge the deep wounds that our community has suffered over the past few weeks,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do to make the healing happen and I hope for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most, come together to support our newly accepted students and their families. with the aim of welcoming them into one of the greatest vocations that exist on this earth – the vocation of medicine.”

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