Dallas High School Valedictorian Blasts Texas Abortion Law

Dallas High School Valedictorian Blasts Texas Abortion Law graduation cap and scroll on wood background (Dreamstime)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Thursday, 03 June 2021 09:52 AM

A Dallas high school valedictorian ditched her approved graduation speech and instead spoke out against the state's new abortion law.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Paxton Smith of Lake Highlands High School had originally submitted another speech that was approved by school administrators. However, when it came time to deliver that address she decided to decry the abortion bill signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The bill was approved by Texas lawmakers last month. It bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks.

The law provides for an exception in the case of medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. It would be enforced by private citizens empowered to sue abortion providers and others who help women get an abortion after six weeks.

"I have dreams and hopes and ambitions," Smith said in her Sunday speech. "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.

"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.

"We cannot stay silent."

Smith told the Advocate of Lake Highlands she had considered making the speech at a different venue.

"I thought about making the speech at a different venue, like a rally where people wouldn't be upset at what I had to say," she said. "But a large part of the reason I made the speech at graduation was that was the only place I could think of where I could reach so many people from so many different backgrounds. It did cross my mind that this is a family event where people are cheering for their kids, but this is a universal topic, and it affects everyone. I felt it need to be said."

Video of the speech has gone viral, according to The Sun newspaper. But the address has prompted the Richardson Independent School District to reevaluate its policy regarding future student speeches.

"All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes," said School Board President Karen Clardy. "The speech was then added to the script for the ceremony. Everything that was supposed to be said during graduation was included in a notebook on the podium. The speech that was delivered was not the one that was submitted, and it was not in the podium book. This student chose to instead use an alternate speech that had not been submitted or approved in advance.

"We are going to review student speech protocols in advance of next year's graduations to prevent something like this from happening again."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has praised Smith. In a Wednesday tweet, Clinton wrote: "This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton."