Paxton Smith speaks about abortion ban.

Texas High School Valedictorian Goes Off Script to Challenge Abortion Ban and I’m Proud

Listen up, Texas.
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Paxton Smith didn’t miss out on an opportunity to speak out on an extreme abortion ban that Texas is implementing in September 2021 when she took the stage as valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School. Her pre-approved speech was about television and the media, which was given the thumbs up by the district administration, according to The Dallas Morning News. But Smith didn’t feel right talking about that when there was something even bigger to focus on.

Voice shaking and looking nervous as anyone would be, she started off her speech by saying, “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 was talking about the near-total ban of abortions known as the “heartbeat” bill passed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott. According to the bill, abortions after six weeks of pregnancy will be banned, effectively banning nearly all abortions, flagrantly in violation of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

This is extremely repugnant and dangerous because many people don’t even know that they’re pregnant at 6 weeks. For those that don’t have uteruses or periods, let me give you a little run down of what could make our periods late. Stress, like the kind that many are experiencing right now due to the pandemic, can cause delayed or missed periods. Diabetes, low or high body weight, or cysts can do the same thing, according to Healthline.

And as someone who has worked at an abortion clinic before, I rarely booked women that were under six weeks because they thought stress, for example, was responsible for their delayed period until it later became apparent that pregnancy was the cause. And to this day, I remember the pain, the heartbreak, and the tears that were shed by the women who I couldn’t help because they had reached the cutoff for getting an abortion in my state. And these women were way further along in their pregnancies than 6 weeks, and knowing that Texas is making abortions illegal after 6 weeks is devastating.

“I have dreams, hopes and ambitions,” Smith explained, becoming even more determined with every word that she spoke on that stage. “Every girl here does. We have spent our whole lives working towards our futures, and without our consent or input, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us.” This part got me because here was this young woman with her entire life ahead of her, and she was standing up for something that she believed in.

Texas already has a delicate reproductive healthcare system, and this “heartbeat” bill is set to dismantle it even more and take away the rights of women across the state. It’s made even worse by the fact that this near-total abortion bill, known as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), has no exceptions for rape or incest, according to The Guardian. While these exceptions themselves are often no more than tools to make anti-abortion extremist legislation seem more reasonable, it is horrifying to know that anyone with a uterus can have their power taken away from them by a man who forces themselves on that person, and then legally they have to live with the consequences if they become pregnant.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail me, that if I’m raped, then my hopes and efforts and dreams for myself will no longer be relevant.” Smith’s words echoed my concerns about this “heartbeat” bill, continuing with, “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.”

What Paxton Smith did, the way that she stood up for herself and her classmates, is a defining moment for this young woman, and I hope that she feels the outpouring of love from those that support her. I also hope that Republicans are scared. Young people like Smith are the future of this nation. They are the ones that are going to vote you out and support the bodily autonomy of women and those with uteruses everywhere.

(image: Tim Roger/Youtube screenshot)

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Lyra Hale
Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.