On June 1, the country was reminded of the power of unfettered, unfiltered, passionate storytelling. During what should have been a run-of-the-mill graduation ceremony for the seniors of Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, TX, valedictorian Paxton Smith made a last-minute change to her commencement speech, pivoting to address the continued attacks on abortion access. Her speech came in the wake of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signing an anti-abortion law that would ban the procedure at six weeks gestation, before most people even know they’re pregnant. (The law has not gone into effect and is likely to be struck down in court—abortion is still legal in all 50 states.)
“I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does,” Smith said to a stadium filled with classmates, faculty, recreational phenergan staff, family, and friends. “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.”
The valedictorian’s speech quickly went viral, to much applause (and, of course, some hate from those who advocate for government-mandated forced birth). But the power of Smith’s plea is something those working within the reproductive justice and abortion rights space have long known: While fact-based advocacy works, personal abortion stories from real people have much greater impact.
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