The images have gone viral on social media. There may be dozens of University of Michigan students suddenly leaving their medical school entrance ceremonies. Their departure coincides with the rise on stage of Dr. Kristin Collier, assistant professor of internal medicine at the university, who was about to begin her speech. By their action, the young people wanted to show that they disapproved of his anti-abortion positions.
In the United States, the White Coat Ceremony (white coat ceremony, editor’s note) is a ritual marking the entry of students into a medical school. Future American doctors must indeed do four years of “pre-medicine” before they can enter medical school. During the transition ceremony between the two courses, students are welcomed by the Dean or other representatives of the school. A white coat is placed on each of them, a symbol of confidence in their ability to perpetuate the values of medicine.
This year, however, not all students at the University of Michigan agreed with the values and beliefs of their professors.
An anti-abortion position that disturbs students
Ahead of the white coat ceremony, which took place last Sunday, students tried to oust Dr Kristin Collier, who shared her anti-abortion stances on social media. In all, between 300 and 400 future students, supported by current students, have signed the petition.
“This isn’t just a disagreement over a personal opinion,” the youngsters claim in their petition seen by CNN. “We oppose groups that attempt to suppress human rights and restrict medical care.”
On May 4, Dr. Kristin Collier expressed her anti-abortion stance on Twitter, saying that “abortion is an act of violence done in the name of autonomy” and that “liberation that costs innocent lives does not is only oppression”.
Since the repeal of Executive Order Roe v. Wade, who guaranteed a federal right to abortion in the United States, the debate is more tense than ever. As a reminder, since June 24, 2022, each State is now free to decide whether or not to maintain the right to abortion, which does not please everyone.
The reaction of the university
Despite the students’ petition, the University of Michigan justified its choice to maintain the speaker by explaining that “the white coat ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues. (…) Dr. Collier never planned to address this subject in his speech”.
Governing on Twitter, Dr Collier claimed ‘some students who have come out have been harassed for doing so’. The students, they recall that they were hundreds to sign the petition.
To put an end to the controversy, the university assured that it would continue to teach abortion care in its courses. For now, abortion remains legal in Michigan.