Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that bans nearly all abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, usually at around six weeks into a pregnancy. This extremely harsh bill has come under severe fire from people both in and out of Texas, who have criticized it as a transparent means of wresting women’s control over their bodies from them. When Paxton Smith, valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School, was supposed to give a speech about media and TV at her graduation, she decided instead to go off-script and speak her mind about the heartbeat bill.
“Today I was going to talk about TV and media and content, because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in the state,” Paxton said.
“I have dreams, and hopes, and ambitions, every girl graduating today does, and we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us,” Paxton said.
In Texas, Lake Highlands High School valedictorian, Paxton Smith, switched out her approved speech to talk about abortion rights. pic.twitter.com/4xsoHARDSs
— Kolleen (@littlewhitty) June 2, 2021
“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,” Paxton added. “I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.”
“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there was 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 concluded.