On the day of her graduation, Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith threw out her pre-approved speech and decided to use her platform to speak up for abortion rights.
Smith called out the “heartbeat bill,” a law passed by Governor Greg Abbott in May which prohibits abortions after six weeks, even in the case of rape or incest.
“I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter,” Smith said, addressing her teachers, classmates and their families. “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.”
The more Smith thought about it, the more she was drawn to the conclusion that there was nothing more important that she could address with her time at the microphone.
Smith talked to her three parents about her decision. Two of them read her new speech and approved; the third wasn’t thrilled but agreed to keep quiet.
The ‘heartbeat bill’ was signed into law in May.