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Incoming University Of Michigan Med Students Leave Ceremony In Droves To Protest Anti-Abortion Speaker

Incoming University Of Michigan Med Students Leave Ceremony In Droves To Protest Anti-Abortion Speaker

After reciting their oaths and receiving their white coats, hundreds of incoming students at the University of Michigan Medical School left the school's annual white coat ceremony to protest Dr. Kristin Collier, the ceremony's keynote speaker who has previously expressed anti-abortion views.

Prior to the ceremony, 248 current students, 100 incoming students and 72 others, including alumni, signed a petition demanding that the school choose a different speaker, citing numerous tweets and interviews in which Collier expressed her opposition to abortion.

The protest against Collier is the latest indication of a deep schism across the country in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that once protected a person's right to choose reproductive healthcare without excessive government restriction.

You can see the moment when the students walked out below.

According to Detroit resident Brendan Scorpio, who recorded the video during the ceremony he'd attended to support a friend in the incoming medical school class, about 35 to 40 percent of students walked out, followed by a number of their friends and family.

Speaking to NPR, Scorpio said that the "overall message that the students wanted to push was that reproductive rights, abortion, is health care," adding that reproductive rights "for anyone who is able to give birth are incredibly important and should be something that's allowed to everyone in the country."

The opposition to Collier's speech is not unfounded.

Collier, who has served on the school's faculty for 17 years, tweeted in May that she "can’t not lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy."

Similarly, in an interview with the Catholic publication The Pillar, Collier described her evolution into "a pro-life person," saying that "it is good to be reminded that people can change their minds on beliefs they have held for a very long time, through a culture of encounter with others and ultimately through the grace of God."

Before beginning her speech, Collier appeared to nod to the nationwide controversy since Roe was overturned, telling students that she wanted "to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past several weeks."

She added:

"We have a great deal of work to do for healing to occur and I hope that for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most, coming together to support our newly accepted students and their families with a goal of welcoming them into one of the greatest vocations that exists on this earth -- the vocation of medicine."

But many have expressed their solidarity with the students.

Students later issued a statement explaining why they had walked out, saying that they "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 school, however, has decried the protest, saying that "The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues." The school added that the ceremony's "focus will always be on welcoming students into the profession of medicine" and that "the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs."

The school concluded that it remains "committed to providing high quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs," which "includes abortion care."