Texas high school valedictorian swaps approved speech for critique of state’s new abortion ban, goes viral

Texas high school valedictorian swaps approved speech for critique of state’s new abortion ban, goes viral
·3 min read

A Dallas high school valedictorian is going viral after she scrapped her approved graduation speech and used her allotted time to say Texas is failing women with its “dehumanizing” new abortion ban.

Paxton Smith delivered the rogue remarks at Lake Highlands High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday after reportedly clearing it with her parents but keeping it otherwise under wraps until she took the stage.

“Today I was going to talk about TV and media and content because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state,” she told the crowd.

“Recently the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Six weeks, that’s all women get. Most (women) don’t realize they’re pregnant by six week,” 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 you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you,” she said.

“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.

Paxton, who’s headed to University of Texas-Austin next year, told D Magazine that two of her parents approved the hush-hush speech while the third wasn’t exactly pleased but agreed to keep quiet.

“It feels great. It also feels a little weird,” Smith told the magazine two days later, as video clips of her speech started racking up thousands of likes on TikTok, Facebook and Twitter.

“Whenever I have opinions that can be considered political or controversial, I keep them to myself because I don’t like to gain attention for that kind of stuff. But I’m glad that I could do something, and I’m glad that it’s getting attention. It just feels weird for me personally, that I’m linked to the attention that the speech got,” she said.

She said early response to her remarks included some speculation she might be in trouble, with the school possibly considering a disciplinary action. But nothing has come of that, the magazine said.

“All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval, and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes,” Karen Clardy, the board president of the Richardson Independent School District, told the Lake Highlands Advocate.

“What the student did was unexpected and not supported by LHHS or RISD. We are going to review student speech protocols in advance of next year’s graduations to prevent something like this from happening again,” she said.