• Incoming medical students walked out of their white coat ceremony
  • They had earlier filed a petition to have the keynote speaker changed
  • The university later noted that their reproductive care still includes abortion

Ann Arbor, Michigan -- Dozens of medical students at the University of Michigan walked out in protest as the keynote speaker, a professor known for her anti-abortion views, began her speech at an induction ceremony.

A viral video shared online showed the students abruptly standing up and exiting the auditorium when Dr. Kristin Collier began her keynote address Sunday at a white coat ceremony, which marks their induction into the medical profession.

Collier, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, has previously been vocal about her anti-abortion views, according to CNN.

"Holding on to a view of feminism where one fights for the rights of all women and girls, especially those who are most vulnerable. I can't lament the violence directed at my prenatal sisters in the act of abortion, done in the name of autonomy," Collier wrote on Twitter in May.

Students had filed a petition when university officials decided to invite Collier to speak at the ceremony. Over 400 students, alumni and faculty members signed the petition seeking to change the keynote speaker.

"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 said.

The university stood by its decision to have Collier speak at the event, saying she was chosen by members of the medical school's Gold Humanism Honor Society. Collier at the time tweeted that she felt "bolstered" by the support.

Following the failed petition, the incoming medical students staged a walk-out Sunday.

"[We] 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," students said in a statement following the protest.

Detroit resident Brendan Scorpio, who attended the ceremony to support a friend, posted the video of the walk-out on social media.

"The overall message that the students wanted to push was that reproductive rights, abortion, is health care," Scorpio told NPR. "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."

Abortion is legal in Michigan and the university said the procedure is included in its reproductive care.

"The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues," the university said in a statement to CNN. "Its focus will always be on welcoming students into the profession of medicine. Dr. Collier never planned to address a divisive topic as part of her remarks. However, the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs."

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

University of Michigan
Students are pictured walking across the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Jan. 17, 2003. Getty Images/ Bill Pugliano