Paxton Smith's high school valedictorian speech on abortion wasn't the typical pomp and circumstance school communities expect, but it did garner viral attention—even from the likes of Hillary Clinton. In response to Governor Greg Abbott signing the heartbeat ban abortion bill into law earlier this spring, the Texan decided to forgo her original and approved speech to take a stand for something she believes in.
"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," she said at the Lake Highlands High School graduation.
Claps from the audience emerged as she became impassioned. She continued: "I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you."
Hear this valedictorian's speech about abortion rights
Texas high school student Paxton Smith secretly swapped out her approved valedictorian speech for a new one – in protest of the state’s abortion law pic.twitter.com/6TS6ANe3vZJune 2, 2021
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Although nervous to make such a bold move, Paxton was met with praise and no backlash from her school community, according to CNN. (Though Lake Highlands High School, which is part of the Richardson Independent School District, did tell CNN they didn't expect to hear this speech, and her viewpoints are not necessarily a reflection of the district's.) Even her parents approved of her decision to nix her original plans.
Hillary Clinton is one of thousands to comment on Paxton's actions
This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton. https://t.co/DlwEgmMRGNJune 2, 2021
The law forbids most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen at about roughly six weeks, at times before a pregnancy is even detected. Medical emergencies are exempt, but cases of rape are not, CNN reports.
This bill—and Paxton's viral speech—come on the heels of the reveal that the Mississippi abortion law, will make its way to the Supreme Court later this year. The law, which is formally known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, is seen as an attempt from the court's conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case from 1973.
Roe v. Wade forbids states from banning abortions before fetal viability (when fetuses can survive outside of the womb), which medical experts believe takes place around 23 or 24 weeks. The Mississippi abortion law aims to make the termination of a pregnancy illegal after 15 weeks. It will ensure that the medical procedure can only be conducted after 15 weeks in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. According to NBC News, the Mississippi law does not include any exceptions for sexual assault victims.
What's next for Paxton?
According to CNN, the high school graduate will attend University of Texas at Austin in the fall. Although she hasn't committed to any major or career choice just yet, social justice isn't entirely out of the cards. The main focus of her studies will be finding a career where she is able to help people.
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Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few.
When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.
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