A Dallas teenager has grabbed national attention after delivering an impassioned, unapproved commencement speech Sunday in which she spoke out against a new Texas law that bans terminating pregnancies as early as six weeks after conception, describing how it could could affect her and millions of other women across Texas as the state becomes a new battleground in the U.S. abortion debate.
After submitting her original commencement speech to school officials, which focused on media consumption, Paxton Smith, the 18-year-old valedictorian of Dallas’ Lake Highlands High School, said she couldn’t stop thinking about the new heartbeat bill, and decided to use her time onstage to draw attention to the new law after receiving the green light from her parents, she told D Magazine.
“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,” Smith said during the speech, which went viral online in the following days.
Smith called it “gut-wrenching” and “dehumanizing” to have the right to have an abortion taken away from her, noting that many pregnancies aren’t discovered until after the six-week mark, robbing Texas women of the ability to choose what happens if they become pregnant.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working toward our future, and without our input and without our consent, that control over our future has been stripped away from us,” Smith said.
In the aftermath of her speech, school administrators floated the idea of withholding her diploma, Smith told D Magazine, but she received it, and Smith said she plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall.
Texas appears to be the newest battleground in the nation’s long-running debate on abortion. On Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from pro-choice group Planned Parenthood against Lubbock, Texas, over a city ordinance that designates Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” which could pave the way for more city-level abortion restrictions elsewhere. The heartbeat bill signed into law in Texas last month outlaws abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected via a vaginal ultrasound. Experts say the law, which will go into effect in September, is prime fodder for court challenges, and Planned Parenthood indicated it will fight the legislation. Last week, state lawmakers passed a bill that would make Texas the latest state to impose a “trigger ban” on abortion, automatically criminalizing it if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Texas Bans Abortion As Early As Six Weeks (Forbes)
Texas Lawmakers Move To Make Abortion A Felony If Roe V. Wade Is Overturned (Forbes)
Texas City Cleared To Become Anti-Abortion ‘Sanctuary City’ As Federal Judge Dismisses Planned Parenthood Challenge (Forbes)