Dallas HS valedictorian delivers abortion rights call (Video)

Paxton Smith scrapped an approved speech to criticize the “heartbeat bill” that recently became Texas law.

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JUAN FIGUEROA / Associated Press

Paxton Smith, the 2021 valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School, poses for a photo in Dallas.

DALLAS — A Dallas high school valedictorian scrapped a speech approved by her school administrators and delivered an abortion rights call in its place.
Paxton Smith, the 2021 valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School, submitted an address on the effect of the media on young minds to school officials.
But when she spoke at Sunday’s graduation ceremony, she talked of what she called “a war on the rights” of her body and those of other girls and women by the “heartbeat bill” signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a week and a half before.
“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,” she told the crowd.
School officials did not turn off her microphone and she was allowed to complete the unapproved version.

The new law outlaws, without exception, any abortion after a first heartbeat can be detected. That could come as early as six weeks after conception when many women could be unaware that they are pregnant.
The law, which would take effect in September, also would allow anyone to sue a Texas abortion provider or anyone who helped someone get an abortion for as much as $10,000. Federal courts have mostly blocked states from enforcing similar measures.
“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 from you,” she said.

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. ”

— Paxton Smith, 2021 valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School

Smith, who plans to study the music business at the University of Texas at Austin, said this week she had already submitted her original speech to school officials and was trying to finish an end-of-year project in the school’s music room when she decided to scrap that speech.
“I couldn’t keep my mind on the project. My mind kept wandering to the ‘heartbeat bill’ and what it meant. So, I started making some notes,” she told The Associated Press.
Smith said she expected to have her microphone cut off or to have her diploma withheld (it wasn’t but she was told later it was considered). And she was stunned by the response to her message.
“I thought it would die right there,” she said. But she saw tears in her audience midway through the speech. In the days since the video of her address posted on social media and retweeted broadly has drawn social media kudos including one from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton: “This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton.”
A statement from the Richardson Independent School District, which controls Lake Highlands, was less enthusiastic. It said student speech protocols would be reviewed before next year’s graduation ceremonies.

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