A Texas High School Student Secretly Switched Her Approved Valedictorian Speech To Protest The State’s ‘Dehumanizing’ Abortion Ban

Paxton Smith was named valedictorian of her graduating class at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, with a 104.93 average. She submitted a speech about media and “how much of it she consumes and how that consumption has shaped the way she sees the world,” according to D Magazine, to school officials a few days ahead of the ceremony. But when it came time to deliver her remarks, she gave her actual speech.

“As we leave high school, we need to make our voices heard. I was going to get up here and talk to you about TV and content and media because those are things that are very important to me. However, in 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,” Smith said. She was up there to talk about the so-called “heartbeat bill” (Planned Parenthood prefers the term “abortion bans”) which Texas governor Greg Abbott signed into law last month. It essentially prohibits abortions in the country’s second most-populated state.

“Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions that take place after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. Six weeks. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then,” Smith said in her speech. “And so, before they have the time 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 into the world, the decision has been made for them by a stranger. A decision that will affect the rest of their lives.” She added, “I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Smith told D Magazine that she “feels great” about pulling the speech switcheroo, but it “also feels a little weird. 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.”

You can watch the speech above.

(Via D Magazine)