June 19, 2013
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Members, I know it’s been a long day, but this, as we’ve noted, is very important.
Before we cross this line and do something that a lot of us and millions of Texas women will regret, let’s take a minute to consider exactly what this bill does:
— It jeopardizes the health of Texas women by creating obstacles to safe, legal and accessible abortion services, putting these services out of reach for women in communities across this state. Specifically, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this bill would shut down 37 of the 42 clinics in Texas where women can be assured of receiving the health services they’re constitutionally entitled to.
— This bill ignores repeated recommendations of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – medical experts who actually understand the implications of this decision. That group opposes, and this is a quote, “legislative proposals that are not based on sound science or that attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their individual patients.”
— This bill also ignores an appeal by the Texas Medical Association, representing more than 47,000 member physicians and medical students, that the legislature not insert itself in the relationship between patients and their physicians.
In all these ways, this bill creates a back-room process to negate women’s constitutional rights over their own bodies.
This bill failed, as a series of bills, under our regular process. Under our traditions, they deserved to fail. It’s wrong to try to resurrect them now through this loophole in our traditions and rules – one that I believe has been shown to be completely arbitrary.
If this is going to be our new process – using a special session to ram through any partisan red meat that fails in the regular session – it makes a mockery of the traditions that so many folks on this floor brag about. Please, members, remember this, remember this day, remember how long a day we’ve had as we have worked individually and collectively in different groups to grieve over how this bill made it to the floor.
We may have people vote a certain way here tonight, but we all know how difficult the process was and how it went around the traditions that, as I say, we like to brag about. So remember this, remember this day the next time we congratulate ourselves on what a fine deliberative body we all belong to.
And let’s try to have some perspective on what’s about to happen. If we remove ourselves from the legislative bubble and we connect the dots that Texans see, we start to get an idea of why so many Texans are afraid – genuinely afraid – of how this legislature treats women.
Let’s talk about the standard of care for women in this state.
— As was pointed out during the debate, in the 82nd legislative session, the legislature slashed health care services for 147,000 women across the state and cut family planning by tens of millions of dollars. The legislature eliminated critical providers from the Women’s Health Program over nothing more than politics. This session’s budget was, as been pointed out, better. But the truth is, as was also pointed out in the debate today, we’re only beginning to face the implications of this legislature’s actions and ensure that women have access to basic health screenings, and breast and cervical cancer screenings – things that they need.
— Let’s talk about the standard of care for women. This session, as has been pointed out by Senator Ellis, the legislature did virtually nothing to expand health coverage in Texas. It turned its back on billions of dollars in federal healthcare funding, even though we lead the nation in our percentage of uninsured. And it left 1.2 million children without health insurance for at least another two years.
— Last week, the Governor vetoed a bill that had what should have been an utterly uncontroversial premise: that women deserve as much pay as men when they do the same work as men, and they have the right to pursue that pay under state law when they’ve been discriminated against.
— In each of the last three sessions, I’ve filed bills – and I offered an amendment on this floor here tonight that was tabled on a strictly partisan line – that would very probably reduce abortions by reducing the unplanned pregnancies that lead to them. The only certain way to prevent the termination of an unwanted pregnancy is to prevent the unwanted pregnancy. But my bills haven’t been given a vote.
— And we voted down educating our students, and making sure their parents know what they’re being educated about – and it be evidence-based – in our schools. This in a state that’s near the top in terms of teen pregnancies and repeat teen pregnancies.
— And today, the Senate is probably going to use this traditions loophole to shove through this bill that would make it much harder for women to make decisions about their own health and their own bodies.
These aren’t isolated issues, members. These decisions connect with each other. They come together in a way that seems specifically designed to ensnare Texas women.
And why? For politics. To win primaries. To appeal to a tiny segment of this state’s voters, no matter the effects on millions of Texas women.
And your constituents see it – don’t kid yourselves. People across this state see this dramatic statement about the way people in control of this building will use or even manipulate the process in a way that specifically affects Texas women.
We’ve talked a lot about transparency over the last several months. Well, let’s do that. Let’s be transparent. Let’s be honest. Let’s tell the truth, as was suggested earlier today. Let’s admit what’s going on here and whom it’s affecting.
These are political decisions that are part of a political effort. And women are collateral damage in that effort. And people in this chamber are building political campaigns over the rights of Texas women.
I think it’s a shame. There’s no justifying it by saying that you care about women, you’re married to a woman, you love a woman, or you are a woman – so your intentions are pure even if your vote will harm countless women in this state.
Is no one in here concerned that today’s vote would take away these services without a thought to the issues that lead women to seek these services? Are we really reducing abortions, or just the legal ones?
Not one single person, not one of us on this floor, likes abortion. Every single one of us wants, or should want, to address this issue in a way that actually helps Texas women, like by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers.
We’re all willing to work to solve these issues. But these bills don’t really offer solutions.
Instead, they hurt Texas women. They’re a back-door effort to overturn something that’s been established law in this country for decades. They’re part of a political effort being waged for political gain.
Texas women will suffer for it. And Texas women will hold us accountable for it.
Members, before we cross this line, I urge you to vote no on SB 5.
Thank you Mr. President.