A graduating Texas high school senior has received praise from liberal politicians and celebrities after using her valedictory speech to condemn the state's new abortion restrictions.
Paxton Smith, the valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, used part of her graduation speech to share concerns about losing the “autonomy” over her body without using the word abortion directly.
A video of her speech, which took place Sunday, quickly went viral.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambitions,” Smith said. “Every girl graduating today does, and 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.”
Smith said that she is "terrified" that if her "contraceptives fail" or if she is raped, her "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," she said. "I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.”
“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, and a war on the rights of your daughters,” she continued. “We cannot stay silent.”
Smith acknowledged that she initially planned to “talk about TV and media and content” but switched the topic of her speech in light of the recent passage of the heartbeat bill in Texas that will ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks gestation.
The valedictorian argued that six weeks into a pregnancy is before women realize they are pregnant and “have a chance to decide if they are emotionally, physically and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy.” She contended that such a decision has been made for them "by a stranger."
In an interview with the Dallas-based D Magazine, Smith stated that she was glad her speech received a lot of attention.
“It feels great. It also feels a little weird," she said. "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.”
Smith, who plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, urged people to “register to vote in the next election and to stay involved in local elections because those have more power than I think the media gives them credit for.”
Prominent Democrats and Hollywood celebrities quickly took to Twitter to express solidarity with Smith.
Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2016, remarked that “this took guts” and thanked the graduating senior for speaking out.
Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic congressman from Texas who has made unsuccessful bids for the United States Senate and presidency, shared a longer message of support.
“Paxton, thank you for having the courage of your convictions and inspiring Texas with your refusal to accept injustice as the price of participation in civic life,” he wrote. “May we all use our place in this democracy to fight for what we believe to be right and follow your example!”
Paxton, thank you for having the courage of your convictions and inspiring Texas with your refusal to accept injustice as the price of participation in civic life.— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) June 2, 2021
May we all use our place in this democracy to fight for what we believe to be right and follow your example! https://t.co/PS3ZR80Gl7
Comedian Sarah Silverman retweeted a video of the speech, accompanied by the word “Brave.” Comedian Kathy Griffin, who faced enormous pushback after posting a picture of herself holding a depiction of former President Donald Trump’s decapitated head on social media, asked, “Isn’t it nice to see someone trending for the right reasons?”
“We stan a queen. Presenting Paxton Smith, speaking with courage, integrity, and intelligence,” wrote author Jodi Picoult.
Conservatives strongly criticized the implication in Smith’s speech that having children and having a career and professional life are mutually exclusive.
Podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey devoted a Twitter thread to pushing back on Smith’s argument.
“There’s no ‘war’ on women’s bodies,” Stuckey asserted. “Abortion is a war on the babies’ right to live, and no high school graduation speech will ever change that.”
“She puts forth the classic lie that a baby is nothing more than an impediment to success. She’s imbibed propaganda," Stuckey added. "She couldn’t begin to logically explain why a job is a good reason to end a human life.”
She puts forth the classic lie that a baby is nothing more than an impediment to success. She’s imbibed propaganda. She couldn’t begin to logically explain why a job is a good reason to end an innocent human life.— Allie Beth Stuckey (@conservmillen) June 2, 2021
Smith is not the first person to express this point of view. During an acceptance speech at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, actress Michelle Williams credited her abortion for enabling her to have a successful career. Williams proclaimed, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.”
Earlier this year, actress Jameela Jamil told fans in a YouTube video that her life was “a million times better” because she had an abortion. She added that a baby “can just f***ing ruin everything if it’s not something that you feel comfortable with and that you are ready for.” Jamil also alleged that “the only side effect” she had from her abortion was “relief.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org