Paxton Smith — valedictorian of Lake Highlands High School in Dallas — had her graduation speech ready to go and approved by the school administration, D Magazine reported.
But Smith had something different in mind.
The magazine said she couldn't stop thinking about the "heartbeat bill" that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month — which naturally attracted a certain amount of controversy. The measure prohibits abortions when babies' heartbeats are detected, which can occur as early as four to six weeks after conception.
In addition, the magazine said the measure — which goes into effect in September — makes no provision if pregnancies are the result of incest or rape, and that abortion rights activists have said it's the most restrictive law in the country.
So, instead of her approved speech, Smith read an unapproved speech attacking the "heartbeat bill." The magazine said she pulled a folded piece of paper from her bra and began to read:
Paxton Smith Speech at Lake Highlands Graduation youtu.be
Here's the text of Smith's speech she read:
As we leave high school we need to make our voices heard. Today, I was going to talk about TV and media and content because it's something that's very important to me. However, in light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state.
Recently the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Six weeks. That's all women get. ... Most of them don't realize that they're pregnant by six weeks. So before they have the chance 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 being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger. A decision that will affect the rest of their lives is made by a stranger.
I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does. And we have spent our entire lives working toward our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us. 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 away from you.
And I'm talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring 12 years of hard, academic work, on a day where we are all gathered together, on a day where you are most inclined to listen to a voice like mine, a woman's voice, to tell you that this is a problem. And it's a problem that cannot wait. And 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.
What happened next?
The magazine said a couple of administrators told Smith that the school could withhold her diploma — but as you might expect, nothing has come of that. She plans to attend the University of Texas in Austin.
What was the reaction?
Also as you might expect, leftists far and wide praised Smith's strident speech railing against a pro-life measure — including former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who tweeted, "This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton."
This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton. https://t.co/DlwEgmMRGN— Hillary Clinton (@Hillary Clinton)1622651455.0
Many others expressed similar sentiments. Here are a few:
- Feminist author Jessica Valenti tweeted that she's "in awe of young people."
- Pro-abortion organization NARAL tweeted that "the future's looking bright."
- And former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis — a well-known Texas pro-abortion activist in her own right — thanked Smith for her "courage."
- "Wow!" tweeted Democratic U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas. "Paxton Smith, you are a courageous, brilliant woman. Thank you for using your voice to shed light on the war on women's autonomy happening in Texas."