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TEXANS: GUN MASSACRES YES, ABORTIONS NO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2021 at 12:14 am

As we leave high school we need to make our voices heard.”

So began the graduation speech of Lake Highlands High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith. It was not the speech she had originally intended go give.  

“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 this state.”   

Her subject couldn’t have been more timely. Eleven days before students graduated from that Dallas high school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had signed Texas Senate Bill 8, virtually prohibiting abortions across 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. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then,” said Smith, 18.

Paxton Smith

Paxton Smith

“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 being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger.

“A decision that will affect the rest of their lives has been made by a stranger.”

Actually, a decision that has been made not only by Governor Abbott but the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives.

Texas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, but the new law makes the procedure illegal after the first heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant until later.

The bill, as Smith pointed out, makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It also allows individual citizens to sue healthcare workers and anyone else who may have helped a pregnant woman obtain an abortion.

Texans have been at the forefront of those refusing to get vaccinated. They have also been among the fiercest critics of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, shouting “It’s my body!” and demanding that the state “keep your hands” off it.

They have also overwhelmingly supported the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to the extent that the NRA, fleeing a fraud case in New York, intends to reincorporate in Texas.

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.”

Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?" - Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give

Initially, Smith intended to talk about TV media and content. But the move to ban virtually all abortions in Texas weighed so heavily on her that a week and a half before graduation, she realized she had to change her speech:

“I fully anticipated that if I made the speech, there would be some negative repercussions socially. I thought that graduation was the only place where I was going to reach such a large audience and a group with so many different opinions and backgrounds that I was going to be able to make a speech like that.”

Reaction to her speech has been overwhelmingly positive: “When I gave the speech, I didn’t realize people who weren’t affiliated with LHHS would see it. I’ve been getting hundreds of messages applauding what I said. It’s been shared on almost every platform I can think of. That’s exciting.”

But not everyone was happy with Smith’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. The school district issued a statement that it would review its protocols for student speeches before next year’s graduation:

“All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes.”

In the past, high school valedictorians have had their microphones cut off for addressing such issues as sexual assault.

Smith, who will continue her education at the University of Texas at Austin, concluded her speech with these words:

And I’m talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring 12 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. 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.”

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