Class Valedictorian Uses Commencement Speech to Protest Texas Abortion Restrictions

Lake Highlands High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith delivered a powerful speech at her Class of 2021’s commencement ceremony on Sunday in which she blasted the new abortion restrictions that were signed into law in Texas by Republican Governor Greg Abbott last month.

Screenshot/YouTube/Tim Rogers

Colloquially known as the “heartbeat bill,” the legislation bans all abortions after six weeks even in cases of rape or incest. Most women do not know that they are pregnant at such an early stage of gestation. It is the strictest such law in the United States and Republicans are hoping to exploit it as a precursor to the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court potentially dismantling Roe versus Wade.

Critics argue that it is flatly unconstitutional.

“Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions that take place after 6 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then. And so, before they have the time to decide if they are emotionally, physically, and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human into the world, the decision has been made for them by a stranger,” Smith said.

“I have dreams, hopes, and ambitions,” she continued. “I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail me, that if I’m raped, then my hopes and efforts and dreams for myself will no longer be relevant. I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Smith had initially drafted a speech that addressed the consumption of media. But in an interview with D Magazine, Smith explained that the situation was too dire for her to ignore. Thus, at the last minute, she rewrote her speech and spoke from the heart.

“Whenever I have opinions that can be considered political or controversial, I keep them to myself because I don’t like to gain attention for that kind of stuff,” she told the publication. “But I’m glad that I could do something, and I’m glad that it’s getting attention. It just feels weird for me personally, that I’m linked to the attention that the speech got.”

Watch Smith’s speech below:

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