A high school valedictorian pulled a switcheroo on her school at her graduation, trading her administration-approved speech for a powerful defense of abortion rights.
Paxton Smith is the 2021 valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, one of the most conservative districts in a notoriously voter-suppressed state. She used her speech as an opportunity to criticize the law and articulate what it could mean for her future, and the futures of her female classmates.
"I have dreams, hopes, and ambitions. 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," Paxton said at the podium, dressed in a cap and gown. "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. 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."