• Benia Richardson

OPINED: VALEDICTORIAN VS. ABORTION



The end of the 2020-2021 school year is upon us, but even the summer sun is not as hot as this topic. With graduations and closing ceremonies behind us, most of us have enjoyed witnessing the matriculation of our children, or those that we know and love, after such a trying school year. The virtual platform allowed equal access to closing ceremonies across the country. I mean, it’s the least they could do since there’s never enough tickets, anyway…and they would still have the nerve to ask us to hold our applause until the end. This time around, the audacity was not on the school administration, but in the extensive freedom of speech displayed by such a young feminist-in-training. Whether in-person or viewing online, folks attending the graduation for Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas got more than what they tuned in for. Paxton Smith chose to use her voice and platform as valedictorian and opted out of the speech that was pre-approved by her school administrators to address one of our nation’s strictest abortion bans.


In May 2021, Texan Governor Gregg Abbott signed into law “a measure” that would prohibit the procedure of abortions after six weeks. Senate Bill 8 (SB8), otherwise known as the “heartbeat bill” basically bans any provider from performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Are you imagining the political cartoon of a depicted stand-off between the anti-abortion/pro-life vs. the pro-choice protesters? I imagine a young Ms. Paxton Smith yelling, “this is Sparta” as she spoke out against the bill that by the notion, especially if carried out through the Supreme Court, overrules the decision in Roe v. Wade. Referred to as a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional if a state bans abortion (except to save the life of the mother). In this day and age as we begin to consider the mental health component a lot more, what about the mental state of the mother, even the father, or surrounding family or support system for that matter? This was in 1973, and Senate Bill 8 is considered to be one of the most extreme, nationwide, and the strictest in Texas ever since. Governor Abbott said he signed this bill in the name of the fact that our Creator gave us life yet millions of children lose their right to life every year due to abortions. While there can be some fact and point to stand on here (unh unh, don’t do that! You do know that even your enemies or haters can be right about something about you, correct?), it is merely impossible to agree with him 100 percent. Our Creator gave us life, got it. Like most other religions, the Christian faith that I’m sure he’s referring to believes against the taking of life in any form. However, in what he said and acted upon, abortions aren’t the only method by which lives would be lost in regards to procreation. Pause for the irony in that.



Furthermore, SB8 that Abbott signed also touches on the rights as well as the lack thereof to pursue the judicial system. There is the loose language around the fact that anyone that’s against abortions could sue providers; turning the law over to private citizens. Defined as newly empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected; the person doesn’t even have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider in order to sue. Now, I typically prefer to stay neutral on such topics like this simply because I usually have an unpopular opinion, and I’ve come to accept that about myself. However, in the essence of what I’m about to tell you next, I needed to insert the fact that I am neither for nor against abortions. While I could not handle it mentally, morally, or spiritually; I do not judge anyone who has had or chosen to do so. Although I get how tied his hands could get on the political frontlines, that is the epitome of our duty as those of us that have belief in the “Creator” Abbott referred to, don’t judge and love over all else and let “Him” sort out the rest. Whereas the only time I’ve thought and said that I could see myself in support of abortion is without question in the cases of rape. This heartbeat bill also includes impregnated women as a result of rape or even incest. The lack of consideration there is what makes this bill and any other similar heartbeat bills downright disgusting!



The main argument has been that most women don’t even know that they are pregnant by the six-week cut-off. Furthermore, by the time a woman has missed her period, made one of the hardest decisions of her life (contrary to popular opinion), and booked an appointment, she has likely missed that 6-week mark. Essentially, the ban aborts the procedure altogether and you simply just can’t do that and get away with it, especially in these freedom-of-speech days! Since the language is so loose, it could even allow a rapist or molester to sue the provider and/or their victim and anyone else in connection to the procedure and potentially win the case seeing as though we know that a lot of rape cases go unreported. Even down to the fact that you could be a stranger and never having experienced the procedure first or secondhand, that you could still sue and potentially win, sickens me worse than any morning sickness that Gov. Abbott would rather put a Texan woman through. Yet, it took a young one to say something against it. Salute to Ms. Paxton Smith! Your move was a risky one, but it was bold, it was courageous, yet necessary.


Whether pro-life or pro-choice, you have to respect this young lady’s plight for total bodily autonomy. Cheers to the class of 2021, especially Paxton Smith…you’re going places!

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