Paxton Smith was named valedictorian of her graduating class at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, meaning she had to give a speech at the ceremony. But while she had prepared a pre-approved speech on the media, she decided to change it last minute to speak out against the new laws.
“As we leave high school, we need to make our voices heard. I was going to get up here and talk to you about TV and content and media because those are things that are 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.”
The bill in question was passed in May by Governor Greg Abbott. It will come into effect from September and is named the ‘heartbeat bill’ because it bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. On signing it Abbott said:
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.
“A bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
But critics have slammed it for curbing women’s rights and Smith said it “stripped” women’s power. She said:
“Most [women] don’t realise they are pregnant before six weeks 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. A decision that will affect the rest of their lives.
“Without our input and without our consent control over [our] future has been stripped away from us.
“I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, how dehumanising it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.
Speaking to D Magazine, Smith said she practiced the speech before delivering it and sought the advice of her parents before delivering it.