A high school valedictorian in Texas went off script from her approved graduation speech to provide scathing commentary on the state’s new anti-abortion law. Paxton Smith’s address slamming the bill signed into law last month and calling for abortion rights has gone viral.
The Lake Highlands High School valedictorian had her speech approved by school administrators prior to the graduation ceremony on Sunday. But when she was called to the podium, she said the unexpected.
‘Today I was going to talk about TV and media and content, because it’s something that’s very important to me,’ said Smith. ‘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.’
She criticized the ‘heartbeat bill’ that Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed on May 19, calling it a ‘war on the rights’ of girls and women.
Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith scrapped a speech approved by her school administrators and instead delivered an abortion rights call in its place (Picture AP)
‘I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my right,’ she said. ‘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.’
The so-called heartbeat bill effectively bans all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can happen as soon as six weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. The law, effective September 1, makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but does not exempt pregnancies from incest or rape. It allows most private citizens to sue an abortion provider if they believe there has been a violation of the law.
Paxton, who plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin, said the bill has ‘stripped away’ the ambitions, hopes and dreams that she and other young women have.
‘I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail,’ Paxton said. ‘I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter.’
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