The recent passage of a restrictive abortion bill by the Texas Legislature received a renewed wave of criticism after a video of Paxton Smith’s valedictorian speech in which she addressed the new law went viral.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an abortion bill into law on May 19th which bans the procedure after a six-week mark (often before women are aware of their pregnancy), including in cases of rape or incest. It also allows any private citizen to sue doctors or abortion clinic employees who perform or help arrange for the procedure. The “heartbeat bill” is among the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation and goes into effect in September.
Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith had planned to deliver a speech about the news media at her graduation, but felt compelled to speak out against the “dehumanizing” law and the impact she said it would have on women. She emphasized that a “decision that will affect the rest of their lives” had been “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,” she stated. “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.”
Ms. Smith did not submit her revised speech to the school’s administration for approval and the Richardson Independent School District said in a statement that it would review student speech protocols before graduation ceremonies next year. Her speech has drawn strong reactions from both sides of the debate over abortion rights.