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University of Michigan students conduct walkout on speaker’s anti-abortion stance

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When nearly 170 new medical students showed up in a University of Michigan auditorium on Sunday, some wondered how they would explain to their overjoyed parents that they were leaving the ritual that marked the beginning of their studies.

Each member of the incoming class had their own trade-off as to whether they should remain seated during the keynote address by Kristin Collier, an openly anti-abortion health practitioner, or join fellow students in a peaceful protest. When the day came, about 70 people quietly rose from their seats and walked out as Collier took the stage – a show of dissent a month later Roe v. Wade was overthrown. A clip of the strike quickly went viral, featuring a video More than 15 million views Tuesday morning.

For some conservatives, the strike was the latest example of “cancellation culture” on college campuses. For others, it was a welcome sign of young people standing up for a procedure that is now severely restricted in some states.

But for the students involved, it was an opportunity to argue for one of the four pillars of medical ethics: autonomy.

“We saw an opportunity to use our position as future physicians to advocate for and stand in solidarity with individuals whose rights to physical autonomy and medical care are being compromised,” the organizers said in a statement to The Washington Post.

College shopping students have a new question: Is abortion legal there?

A spokesperson for the University of Michigan said in a statement that Collier, the director of the medical school’s health, spirituality and religion program, had been selected to deliver the keynote address “based on nominations and votes by … medical students, house officers and faculty members.”

Collier, who has taught at the University of Michigan for 17 years, did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. The university spokesperson said Collier does not speak to the media.

In a June interview with Catholic newsletter The Pillar, Collier described her “conversion to a pro-life person” after years of being secular and staunchly “pro-choice.” A month earlier she had Posted Twitter that she “cannot complain about the violence against my prenatal sisters in performing abortions, done in the name of autonomy.”

In her Sunday address, Collier urged students to “get to know your patients as people, not just their scans, labs, chemistry and data.” While she didn’t explicitly mention abortion, she seemed to address the controversy by saying, “I want to acknowledge the deep wounds our community has suffered over the past few weeks.”

“We have a lot of work to do for healing to take place,” she continued. “And I hope that for today, for this time, we can focus on what matters most – coming together to support our newly hired students and their families with the aim of welcoming them into one of the greatest callings there is on this earth.” consists.”

A student told The Post that after the dobbs decision, having a speaker who has expressed anti-abortion views “felt inappropriate and like a slap in the face.”

“She can have any opinion … but I think the professional sphere is where one has to be objective, especially as caregivers,” added the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns about backlash on the runway. .

Before During the ceremony, the students created a poll to gauge whether they should take action. When about 91 percent of respondents said they were against or strongly against speaking to Collier, organizers said they petitioned to have her removed if the keynote speaker. They also suggested meeting with Collier at a later date — just not at a ceremony considered a rite of passage in their field.

University officials, however, stuck to their decision. Collier “never intended to raise a divisive topic” at the ceremony, the statement said.

“The University of Michigan will not withdraw a speaker’s invitation based on their personal beliefs,” it added.

As students prepared for the white coat ritual, some were planning their protest. They wore pins with abortion rights slogans to the ceremony, recited an added line about patients’ rights on their declaration of ideals, and eventually walked out.

“You could tell there was an overwhelming sense of pride in the air. They didn’t know each other before, but there was a kind of great relief when everyone went out and they could stand together in solidarity,” said Brendan Scorpio, a Detroit social organizer who attended the ceremony and posted the clip of the strike. “It was a very meaningful, powerful moment.”

The debate surrounding Collier’s speech is preceded by decades of cultural clashes on college campuses, said Peter Cajka, who teaches in the department of American studies at the University of Notre Dame. The University of Michigan was known for the student activism it sparked in the 1960s.

“These culture-war-like debates in universities broke out in the 1960s when the university became a more political space,” Cajka said.

More recently, Boston University students left an April lecture with a conservative political commentator, the school newspaper reported. In 2017, graduating seniors at Notre Dame were leaving their opening ceremony when Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech.

Top GOP Governor Candidate: Mich. abortion ban should cover rape, incest

But Cajka sees a reversal in the clashes that take place on campuses today. Politics is bleeding in areas that have historically been apolitical, such as medicine, technology and science, he said. The catalyst of these protests often comes down to speakers who seem to embody “the politics that people struggle with when those politics are at stake”.

“Without the dobbs decision, does this speech even matter? No,” he said of Collier’s keynote. “Because this person who is pro-life, well, that’s normally just an opinion. But now it looks like it has or represents some political power.”

Michigan is one of the few Midwestern states that still protects access to abortion, although the procedure is subject to restrictions.

The flagship university and medical center “remains committed to providing high-quality, safe reproductive care for patients,” according to the University of Michigan.


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