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Texas Heartbeat Bill

May 30, 2021 — Valedictory speech, Lake Highlands High School, Dallas TX


I’m not usually very good at expressing my gratitude for the people that I care about. But I would like to say thank you to coach. I think he’s had a bigger role in my life than he realizes.


As we leave high school, we need to make our voices heard. Today, I was going to talk about TV and media and content, because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in the state.

Recently, the Heartbeat Bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

Six weeks. That’s all women get. And so before they realize — most of them don’t realize that they’re pregnant by six weeks — so before they have a chance 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 being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger.

A decision that will affect the rest of their lives is made by a stranger.

I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. 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.

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. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.

And I’m talking about this today — on a day as important as this, on a day honoring twelve years of hard academic work, on a day where we are all gathered together, on a day where you are most inclined to listen to a voice like mine, a woman’s voice — to tell you that this is a problem, and it’s a problem that cannot wait.

And 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, a war on the rights of your daughters.

We cannot stay silent. Thank you.



Copyright 2021 by Paxton Smith. Used by permission. All rights reserved.