Paxton Smith, a Dallas high school valedictorian, decided to scrap her pre-approved speech on media and its effect on young people in favor of a brave address on the fight for abortion access in the state.
Smith delivered an impassioned plea for abortion rights:
“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.”
Texas recently passed a bill banning abortion after six weeks—before most know they are pregnant. It provides no exceptions for rape or incest. It allows anyone to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion for up to $10,000. The Texas Senate recently passed a “trigger” law, which would outlaw all abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court.
Texas is one of dozens of states that have passed extreme abortion restrictions: In the first four months of 2021, anti-abortion lawmakers introduced 536 abortion restrictions in 46 states, including 146 abortion bans, according to a report released by the Guttmacher Institute.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. 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,” said Smith.
“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.”
She plans to study the music industry at the University of Texas at Austin, but said as she was writing her original speech, she couldn’t stop thinking about the recent bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R).
“I couldn’t keep my mind on the project. My mind kept wandering to the ‘heartbeat bill’ and what it meant. So, I started making some notes,” she said to The Associated Press.
Her speech has since gone viral, collecting accolades from notable figures such as Hillary Clinton who tweeted, “This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton.”