Graduation time often brings valedictorians’ controversial speeches into the public eye, and this year is no exception.
Earlier this spring, a Michigan high school graduate was asked to remove a reference to God in her speech, though the school later reversed its decision after the matter attracted wide-spread publicity.
Now, a Texas valedictorian’s speech is getting attention for a very different reason: She advocated for ending babies’ lives in abortion.
According to the Hill Reporter, Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith gave an unapproved commencement speech slamming her home state of Texas for passing a heartbeat law to ban abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
“As we leave high school, we need to make our voices heard,” Smith began her speech. “… 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.”
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Speaking Sunday at her commencement ceremony in Dallas, Smith criticized Gov. Greg Abbott for signing the law, saying it will ban abortions before most women even know that they are pregnant.
“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,” she continued.
The heartbeat law could save tens of thousands of unborn babies’ lives in Texas every year if it is not blocked by the courts. In 2019, more than 56,600 unborn babies were aborted in the state, according to state health statistics.
Smith, however, claimed the heartbeat law is “dehumanizing” because it takes away women’s bodily autonomy.
“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,” she said.
UPROXX reports the graduating senior said her original speech, the one approved by school administrators, focused on TV, content and media. It is not clear if she will be disciplined for switching speeches.
Afterward, she told D Magazine that she wrote her second speech last-minute and decided to give it after talking with her parents.
“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,” she told the magazine. “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.”
Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.
Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.
In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.