A doctor walks down a tunnel with posters hanging down from the ceiling.
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Over 340 incoming and current University of Michigan medical students have signed a petition opposing the selection of Dr. Kristin Collier as the keynote speaker for the upcoming July 24 White Coat Ceremony, where incoming medical students will receive their white coats to mark their entry into the field of medicine. An additional 72 community members — including graduate students, alumni and Michigan Medicine residents and physicians — have also signed on.

According to the petition, Collier has shared multiple anti-abortion posts on social media and made comments expressing her opposition to abortion in interviews. The petition calls on the University to select an alternative speaker, emphasizing that student opposition to this speaker selection goes beyond a difference in opinion and subverts the values of the University and the medical profession. 

“While we support the rights of freedom of 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 non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care,” the petition reads. “This is not simply a disagreement on personal opinion; through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care.”

Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, the U-M administration and Michigan Medicine published statements affirming the University’s dedication to reproductive healthcare. In their statement, Michigan Medicine said they would continue to provide all necessary reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, as long as it was legal in the state of Michigan. 

“U-M Health remains committed to providing high-quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs,” the statement read. “This includes abortion care, which remains legal in Michigan while challenges to various state-law criminal statutes continue to proceed.”

The petition calls on the University to re-evaluate its choice of speaker and select someone who better embodies the values outlined in the aforementioned statements. 

“We demand that (the University) stands in solidarity with us and selects a speaker whose values align with institutional policies, students, and the broader medical community,” the petition reads. “This speaker should inspire the next generation of healthcare providers to be courageous advocates for patient autonomy and our communities.”

In an email to The Michigan Daily, Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson said Collier was selected by the Gold Humanism Honor Society for her medical qualifications, and that the University will not retract this decision solely based on Collier’s views on abortion. 

“The University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs,” Masson wrote. “However, the White Coat Ceremony will not be used as a forum to air personal political or religious beliefs; it will focus on welcoming students into the profession of medicine.”

The Daily spoke with an incoming medical student, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her from potential repercussions from her school. In this article she will be referred to as Abigail. Abigail said she felt the selection of Collier as the keynote speaker at the White Coat Ceremony — an event intended to signify medical students’ official entry into the field of medicine — is particularly upsetting for incoming students. 

“You’ve got these incoming (medical students) who voted and organized and demonstrated very clearly that they don’t want Dr. Collier speaking there,” Abigail said. “They don’t want this representative of the medical school welcoming them into a medical profession that is supposed to be respecting patient autonomy.”

The Daily spoke with another incoming medical student, who also requested to remain anonymous to protect her from potential repercussions from her school. She will be referred to as Beth for the purposes of this article. Beth said by giving Collier a platform as keynote speaker, the University is directly affecting a large proportion of its students. 

More than half of matriculants to (medical) school now are assigned female at birth,” Beth said. “These are people who are directly affected by her being given a platform.”

Beth said the coalition of incoming students having signed this petition even before meeting one another or arriving at the University reflects the importance of this issue to the student body. 

“(Our class is) almost entirely strangers to one another, and yet, we have collectively banded together,” Beth said. “More than half of us responded to a survey from someone that we don’t even know to say, ‘This is a human rights issue and we have a voice in this.’” 

Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu