2:50 PM PDT, June 3, 2021
Valedictorian Paxton Smith of Lake Highlands High School delivered a rousing abortion rights speech at her graduation.
Smith was responding to a new “heartbeat bill” that Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed into law. The bill not only bans abortions after six weeks — before many individuals know they are pregnant — but enables citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone who is considered an ally in the process, including doctors, clinic staff, or a patient’s family and friends.
This new law does not include any exceptions. During her speech Smith said, “I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is, I hope that you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you,” according to CBS Dallas.
The grad received positive responses from her classmates and the media, including Hilary Clinton.
According to CBS Dallas, however, the Richardson Independent School District issued a statement saying speeches will be reviewed more closely in coming years.
Smith stated that she was nervous about the reaction from her school, but that did not stop her from sharing her passionate thoughts during her speech.
“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent,” she said.