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MWU Students and Admin Clash Over Anti-Choice Club

Medical students at Midwestern University protest a club purported to spread abortion misinformation.

Image: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

Medical students at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine voted against allowing a chapter of Medical Students For Life on campus, but administration reversed the decision.

The Vote

Earlier this month, student government members at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine voted against approving a new chapter of Medical Students For Life to form on campus. Medical Students For Life (MSFL), a group with chapters at US medical schools, has come under fire for making false claims about abortion and birth control. The students’ vote, however, was overruled by MWU administration.

MSFL is now an operating group on MWU’s Glendale, Arizona, medical campus, sparking concern from student government members and Midwestern University’s Students For Choice Group. In a letter response to administration’s decision to allow the club to form on campus, MWU Students For Choice wrote that allowing the group “contradicts what we are taught in our curriculum and … could directly put patients in our community at risk as students are on rotations and enter residency.”

The Club

Medical Students For Life is part of the broader Students For Life organization, with over one thousand campus group chapters. MSFL has been criticized in the past for issuing false information regarding abortion and family planning. The club, which has a chapter at Baylor College of Medicine, among others, has advocated for abstinence-until-marriage sex education. In terms of medicine, MSFL has also claimed that IVF is dangerous, and falsely claimed that birth control pills are abortifacients. Baylor’s chapter, on the College of Medicine website, describes themselves as “an interest group for pro-life Baylor students that encourages discussions about end-of-life decisions.” MSFL’s counterpart group, Medical Students For Choice, states that MSFC is “dedicated to providing the most up to date family planning education available outside of formal medical school curricula.”

In response to MWU admin’s decision to let an MSFL chapter form on the medical campus, a number of students have expressed concerns over the group’s place at a university providing medical education. In Ms. Magazine video interviewing MWU medical students, an anonymous student using the pseudonym “Sarah” said:

Midwestern University Medical Students For Life disseminates blatant medical misinformation encourages violent and obstructive behavior toward clinics and providers. When Student Government almost unanimously voted against the approval of the Medical Students For Life chapter, despite this, for the first time in history, the Dean of Students went against their recommendation… As a medical student, I feel betrayed by administration’s decision.

“Sarah,” MWU medical student

In the video, Alec, another medical student and the Vice President of Student Government, explained that, according to administration, MSFL had filled out all the appropriate paperwork to become a club and hadn’t broken any rules. MSFL’s approval is the first instance of the Dean overruling student government’s decision over a club, however.

In an email to Ms., MWU’s Dean wrote, “I and my office have always done our best to be inclusive and open to diversity, including diversity of thought. We cannot always agree with everyone, but we can be respectful and provide others the benefit of the doubt to express their beliefs.” The interviewed students, meanwhile, worry that allowing Medical Students For Life on campus represents not an issue of free speech but another example of how anti-choice groups seek to limit good abortion care by providing false medical information.

Ms. Magazine‘s video reel interviewing MWU medical students

Abortion Medical Education and Its Future

According to its website, Medical Students For Choice’s goal is to create “tomorrow’s abortion providers and pro-choice physicians.” Meanwhile, MWU students worry that having Medical Students For Life as a force on campus will make it even more difficult for medical students and future physicians to receive accurate and appropriate education surrounding abortion.

In a country currently rife with abortion bans, only about 30% of medical students are set to receive their training in states where abortion is protected. Meanwhile, under Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 70.77% of the 129,295 US medical students will have their training restricted by state laws. A study from The Lancet medical journal suggests that the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade “has profound implications for medical education and will fundamentally reshape the knowledge, skills, and quality of care provided by future physicians.”

Kimberly, another MWU medical student, explained her issues with MSFL’s presence on the medical campus, saying,

 When we refuse to provide abortions, which are considered essential health services by the World Health Organization, first of all, it’s considered a violation of human rights. I’m just really frustrated with our administration. It’s going to be harmful to future patients. We can do better.

Kimberly, MWU medical student
Written By

Hi! I'm Ava (she/her) and I'm a Columbia University student studying English! I'm originally from Los Angeles, and I love writing about breaking news, politics, and social and feminist issues.

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