Feminism: Filibuster Transcript (Part 1)

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Texas Senate Session on June 25, 2013.
The Wendy Davis filibuster of Senate Bill 5.

Part 001
Wendy Davis' opening remarks.

Public Domain video from Texas Senate public archives.

Transcript is the work of Ana Mardoll.



File Links:
Texas Senate Archive (Full) (.rm)
SB5-001-Wendy Davis Opening Remarks (.mp4)
SB5-001-Wendy Davis Opening Remarks (.mp3)
Transcript from Google Docs


[EDITOR’S NOTE: Notes may be added between lines to clarify points for readers. Words which are not understood by the transcriptionist will appear in-line but in square brackets.]


Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: Members of the Senate will come to order. What I wanted to do before we start today is remind our members, our guests on the floor, and all of our guests in the gallery that this is a traditional parliamentary body with strict rules of decorum. And senate rules prohibit outbursts on the floor and in the gallery, so I ask that you please keep your conversations to a minimum and any applause, make it polite, so that we can hear on the floor and proceed today. So thank you. Senator Watson, for what purpose do you rise?

Senator Kirk Watson: Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. President.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: State your inquiry.

Senator Kirk Watson: You may have just addressed it, but I wanted to ask a parliamentary inquiry about the rules of decorum because this is one of those days, it could be a long day, it’s a matter of great passion, among all of the people in the gallery and all the people that are on the senate floor, and I wanted to make sure that it was communicated, and as I indicated you may have already answered that question, but I wanted to make sure it’s communicated that we ought to maintain decorum.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: And I appreciate that, Senator Watson. We’ve had incidences in the past where people were not maintaining decorum and they had to be removed, and in extreme cases clear the galleries, so we don’t want to get to that point. So thank you. Thank you. Members, one of our colleagues and one of our friends, Senator Van de Putte, her father passed away regrettably on Friday – this last Friday – and I’d like to do a memorial resolution, I know it’s been signed by many of the members, but I’d like to do that later today. The chair recognizes Senator Hegar for motion to concur in the House amendments for Senate Bill 5.


Senator Glenn Hegar: Thank you, Mr. President. Members, as we all know, Senate Bill 5 was passed out of the senate on June 18th with an amendment that we put on by Senator Deuell. This bill is back before us in that exact version as well as the language that was passed out of the Health and Human Service committee on June 14th. This bill will do four things in particular.

One, it will establish a state compelling interest in pre-born children who can feel pain and ban abortion at 20 weeks threshold with the fact that there would be exceptions for medical emergencies and those definitions would: one, protect the life-threatening of the mother, her physical life, and also substantial irreversible impairment of any bodily function and also an exception for severe fetal anomaly which is in statute today.

It would also rise all clinics to the ambulatory surgical center standard, which we had passed into law several sessions ago for any abortion that was after 16 weeks. The bill thirdly, as we debated on this floor back on June 18th, would require doctors to have secured admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of each clinic at which he or she performs those abortions. And then lastly, as we debated here last week on the floor, it would also include prescribing physician must examine the patient, her records, and determine the gestational age of a child, and also require the physician prescribing – yes,sir?

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: I wonder if I could interrupt you just for a moment. Senator Davis, yesterday you gave me a sheet indicating it was your intention to filibuster. Is it still your intention to filibuster?

Senator Wendy Davis: Yes, Mr. President, I –

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: You’re recognized.


Senator Wendy Davis: – intend to speak for an extended period of time on the bill, thank you very much.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: Excuse me, I’ve just been asked by the Parliamentarian. I’d like to make one motion on excusing Senator Eltife. Senator Whitmire moves to excuse Senator Eltife on matters of important business. Is there objection from any member? Chair raised no objections. So ordered. Chair recognizes Senator Davis.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Parliamentarian is the woman in white standing behind Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. Her name is Karina Davis. I do not know if she is related to Wendy Davis, and could find no mention of a relation online. Her job is to “provide advice on rules, procedure and precedent”, and she is appointed by the lieutenant governor. LINK: Argument About Rules Takes Center Stage at Texas Abortion Debate]

Senator Wendy Davis: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, members. As we began to debate this bill on the senate floor last week, we talked about the fact that we were here on this particular motion because we had taken extraordinary measures to be here.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a reference to placing the bill in the special session rather than the regular session. The Texas special session, as opposed to the regular session, can suspend the usual rule that bills must pass with a 2/3 majority and replace it with a rule which allows bills to pass with a simple majority. This is one reason why the special session is supposed to be used only for emergencies. LINK: Texas Politics]

Senator Wendy Davis: And I want to talk about that for a moment: how we wound up at this moment, on this day, on the senate floor, debating this bill. And we wound up here because extraordinary measures were taken in order to assure that we would land here. We all know that the bills that are before us today, that have been folded into this one bill, Senate Bill 5, are bills that were filed during the regular, called session of the Texas legislature.

And we all know, as a body, why we did not hear this bill during the regular session. And that is because, of course, under our rules, our traditions, it takes two-thirds of the members of this body in order to suspend the regular order of business, because it is typical for a blocker bill to be filed, in order for a bill to be taken up. And we know that there were 11 members of this body who refused to allow the suspension of that particular rule.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: There are 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate. One Democrat, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. supported Senate Bill 5. LINK: Texas Tribune Directory]


Senator Wendy Davis: We know that there were n real courses of action on the House side on this bill during the regular session, as well. And when the session ended, and within the hour, Governor Perry called us back. He initially called us back for another matter that also could not be heard on this senate floor during the regular session because of that two-thirds rule and of course that was our redistricting bills.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Redistricting in Texas landed the state before the Supreme Court in 2012 on accusations of racist gerrymandering designed to keep Republicans in power despite huge spikes in minority population numbers. LINK: The Supreme Court and the Texas Gerrymander]

Senator Wendy Davis: And now something extraordinary has happened. We were called to a special session, our presiding officer has decided against tradition of the Texas senate to have us convene in order to talk about bills that could not be taken up in the regular session. And to not follow the tradition of the two-thirds rule in order to accommodate that occurring. This bill, of course, is one that impacts many, many people. And it’s one that took extraordinary measures in order for us to be here and to converse on it today. Members, I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These are Texans who relied on the minority members of this senate in order for their voices to be heard.


These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state. And sadly he’s being abetted by legislative leaders who either share this blind partisanship or simply do not have the strength to oppose it. Partisanship and ambition are not unusual in the state capital, but here in Texas, right now, it has risen to a level of profound irresponsibility and the raw abuse of power.

The actions intended by our state leaders on this particular bill hurt Texans. There is no doubt about that. They hurt women; they hurt their families. The actions in this bill undermine the hard work and commitment of fair-minded, mainstream Texas families who want nothing more than to work hard, raise their children, stay healthy, and be a productive part of the greatest state in our country. These mainstream Texas families embrace the challenge to create the greatest possible Texas. Yet they’re pushed back and they’re held down by narrow and divisive interests that are driving our state. And this bill is an example of that narrow partisanship.


Today I’m going to talk about the path these leaders have chosen under this bill, and the dark place that the bill will take us. I will try to explain the history of the [failed] legislation before us, the impact of that legislation, and most importantly what history tells us about these policies and the motivations behind them. They do real damage to our state, and to the families whose rights are violated and whose personal relationship with their doctor and their Creator – which should belong to them and them alone – are being violated.

Most importantly today, I will share with you what thousands of families have had to say about this legislation, and those bringing this legislation to the floor, when the majority of Texans want us working to press upon genuine business of the state of Texas.


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