Earlier this summer, a valedictorian of the class 2021 at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, went viral for her speech that took aim at the Texas bill banning abortions at six weeks in the state.
Paxton received a standing ovation as she took to the stage at Variety’s Power of Women event. She was there on behalf of A Is 4, a non-profit that uses the arts to destigmatize abortion, and the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAPS). Same as the speech that went viral earlier, she addressed the heartbeat bill which was passed into law in May and enacted on September 1, 2021, and spoke on the importance of abortion care for all people.
“In high school, I spent every single night of my life struggling to get perfect grades, overwhelmed myself with extracurriculars to put on college applications and resumes and remember working until 3 a.m. some mornings just to finance my college education,” said Paxton. “And I did all of this with the hopes of opening up as many doors as possible for myself, so that how I spend my time on this planet is how I choose to spend it, but that decision is not necessarily mine anymore. The Texas Heartbeat Act is an act of the Texas Legislature. The act allows any person to sue someone who ‘performs or induces an abortion, or aids and abets one.’”
She continued, tying together how the bill could impact her life, if she were to find herself pregnant. “If I become pregnant, a potentially life-changing decision to carry out that pregnancy has been taken out of my hands and put into the hands of a stranger,” she explained. “At the belief systems of a stranger, at the will of a stranger, I could be forced to have a child — regardless of the impact it will have on the life that I have been working towards, the life that I will be the one to live through.”
Paxton finished her speech with an impassioned plea for people to stand up for abortion rights. “The time for silence on the issue has come and gone. There is no more time for complacency, there is no more time to wait and see what happens next, because the very thing we are afraid of, is happening right now,” she said. “And the unbearable truth is that could soon be the reality for far more than just Texans.”
She then left the audience with an important question. “It is time to do something about that. It is time to say something about that. I need you to do something about that. And if you can’t do it for me, and if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for every girl who comes after us, every young person who comes after us. Because they are counting on you. So what will you do?”