Incoming UT freshman Paxton Smith used valedictory speech to speak out against new abortion law

Sheryl‌ ‌Lawrence‌ ‌, News Reporter

Paxton Smith ditched her preapproved valedictorian speech to speak out against a new Texas law that bans abortion as early as six weeks or as soon as a heartbeat is detected. Smith called the bill “gut-wrenching” and “dehumanizing.”

Smith, who graduated from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, went viral on social media after her speech. In the fall, she will head to UT with plans to earn a Bachelor of Arts in music with an emphasis in record technologies or music business.

On May 19, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The bill bans abortion as early as six weeks or as soon as a heartbeat is detected, with the exception of medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.

“Before (people) 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,” Smith said in her speech.

Smith said she expected the microphone to be cut off before she finished speaking at graduation and for people to be upset with her. She also expected to lose a few friends, people’s respect and to receive many nasty messages, she said. However, she did not face any repercussions from the school after her speech.

“On the stage, I honestly had a very neutral, calm feeling,” Smith said. “The week and a half leading up to before it, I was absolutely dreading giving the speech. I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do, so (it) was something that I should do, but I wasn’t blind to the repercussions that I was probably going to face.”

Smith said she hopes to participate in various sports and clubs in the fall at UT and wants to use her voice to advocate for people who are impacted by this bill.

Smith was involved in many organizations in high school, but she said Interact Club, where she was president for two years, had the biggest impact on her.

“That was very eye-opening to me in terms of economic disparity,” Smith said. “I realized how much I have to start with … I think it was there and seeing how my actions can truly impact others that I really gained a passion for service.”