Texans protest a restrictive abortion bill outside the State Capitol in Austin on May 29.Bob Daemmrich/Zuma

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Paxton Smith, the valedictorian of Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, scrapped her planned speech this weekend to give an impromptu address about the necessity of women’s autonomy over their own bodies.

Smith criticized the six-week abortion ban that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month. The law, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, is subject to litigation and likely will not take effect as written. Still, it’s part of a worrisome trend of states chipping away at abortion rights in attempts to challenge Roe v. Wade.

“Before [women] have the chance 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,” Smith said. “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 cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights,” she said, to cheers and applause, “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.”

Watch the video.

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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