The valedictorian at a Texas high school went off script while delivering her graduation speech, criticizing the state’s extreme abortion ban in a speech that has since been widely shared on social media.
School administrators had signed Paxton Smith’s prewritten speech on how television and the media have shaped his worldview. But when it came time to address the Lake Highlands High School graduating class, he took a turn.
“In light of recent events, it feels bad to talk about anything other than what is affecting me and millions of other women in this state,” she said, her voice shaking at first.
“Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest,” Smith said.
In May, the state’s Governor, Greg Abbott, signed into law a near-total ban on abortions, banning the procedure at six weeks, when most people don’t even know they’re pregnant. The extreme ban also allows private citizens to sue any abortion provider or anyone who “aids and encourages” an abortion who violates the restriction, opening the floodgates to harassment and frivolous lawsuits.
The law makes no exception for rape or incest, and advocates warn that it will make abortion care effectively impossible for women in the state to access.
“I have dreams, hopes and ambitions,” Smith said. “All the girls here do. We have spent our entire lives working for our future, and without our consent or input, our control over our future has been stripped from us. “
“It terrifies me that if my contraceptives fail me, if they violate me, my hopes, efforts and dreams for me will no longer be relevant,” he added. “I hope you can feel how heartbreaking it is, how dehumanizing it is to be taken away from your autonomy over your own body.”
The speech has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on TikTok.
blacksmith He said D Magazine that viral fame has felt “weird to me personally,” though she’s glad the issues she raised are getting attention. He also urged people to vote, “and to continue participating in local elections because they have more power than I think the media gives them credit for.”