A Texas high school valedictorian scrapped her approved graduation address to instead deliver a blistering speech about the state’s new abortion ban.
“It feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state,” Paxton Smith, who was named valedictorian of Lake Highlands High School, told the crowd Sunday.
The teen then blasted the “heartbeat bill” signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott “a war on the rights” of her body and those of other girls and women.
“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my right,” she told her class.
“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.”
The new law bans any abortion after a first heartbeat can be detected, which could come as early as six weeks after conception.
The legislation also would allow anyone to sue against any state abortion provider or person who helped someone get an abortion for as much as $10,000.
Smith, who plans to study the music business at the University of Texas at Austin, said that the law jeopardizes all young women’s futures.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us,” 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. 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 continued.
Footage of the speech soon went viral on social media, where she received praise from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton,” Clinton wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, the Richardson Independent School District said it would review student speech protocols before next year’s graduation ceremonies.
“The content of each student speaker’s message is the private, voluntary expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District or its employees,” it said.
With Post wires