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Texas Valedictorian Praised For Graduation Speech Calling Out State’s Strict Abortion Law

“I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith gave a powerful commencement speech calling out Texas' new restrictive abortion law. | Paxton Smith
Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith gave a powerful commencement speech calling out Texas' new restrictive abortion law. | Paxton Smith

A high school valedictorian in Texas is being applauded after video circulated online of her “brave” graduation speech where she condemned her home state’s restrictive new abortion law. 

Paxton Smith, a Lake Highlands High School graduate, took the stage at her graduation ceremony on Sunday with an approved speech in one hand and another speech hidden in her shirt, she told local outlets. Smith opened the second piece of paper and launched into her alternative address speaking out against Texas’ anti-choice law. 

“It feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in the state,” Smith said in her speech.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a heartbeat bill into law in May, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Abortion advocates say this bill is one of the most restrictive in the country and argue that many women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks.

“Before they have a chance to decide if they are emotionally, physically, and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger,” Smith continued. “I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Smith, who graduated with a 104.93 average, is headed to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall with plans to major in music business or music production, according to WFAA. Smith said initially some school officials told her they could withhold her diploma for the speech, but fortunately, that hasn’t happened.

After speaking out about the law in front of a crowd full of her classmates, families, and school administrators, Smith’s commencement speech was circulated online and met with praise. Many pointed out Smith’s bravery for speaking on such a contentious issue in a largely conservative state like Texas. The video caught the attention of prominent figures and organizations including Hillary Clinton, Olivia Wilde, and the ACLU.

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