The Legislative Years

One of only five women in the 150-member Texas House of Representatives, Dr. Sarah Weddington began her tenure as a member of the 63rd Legislature in 1973. She served through the 64th Session in 1975-1976, and continued into the 1977 65th Session.

LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY

The Honorable Sarah Weddington served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives during the 1973, 1975 and 1977 sessions of the Texas Legislature. In 1974 she was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention held for the purpose of writing a new Texas Constitution. Dr. Weddington resigned her Texas post September 1, 1977, after she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be General Counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture, the first woman to serve in that position.

The high regard for the work of Sarah Weddington is reflected in the July 1975 issue of Texas Monthly in its article entitled "Saluting Texas Politicians: The Best and Worst State Legislators." On page 62, Ms. Weddington was saluted as one of the 10 best Texas legislators in the following words:

“Sarah Weddington, 30, Liberal Democrat, Austin. Best known as the attorney who persuaded the United States Supreme Court to declare most criminal laws against abortion unconstitutional. Continues to be interested in feminist issues like the rape bill (which she handled effectively on the House floor), but is definitely not just a one-issue legislator. Carries a large and diverse legislative program – too large and diverse in the opinion of many liberals, who fault her for spreading herself too thin. Persuasive and respected in debate. Her best performance on the floor came during the fight over presidential primary legislation – Tom Schlesser's so-called Bentsen bill. By the time she had finished with Schlesser, it was clear that he was taking things personally, a bad mistake that cost him votes.

"May be the hardest working member of the House. Here is a typical performance in the session's closing days: on the floor one night until a 2 a.m. adjournment; at 8 a.m. the following morning, headed the House Study Group strategy session on malpractice insurance; and at 2 a.m. that night, won approval of an important amendment requiring insurance companies to pre-file their rates with the State Board of Insurance.

"Has a knack for making her male colleagues feel at ease in discussing serious subjects, which has helped her win the genuine respect of old-style House members like Bill Clayton and Dick Slack who might have been predisposed to ignore her. Her feminist principles lead her into hopeless battles, such as an attempt to knockout a rider in the appropriations bill prohibiting the use of state money for abortions, surprisingly, these futile efforts have damaged neither her effectiveness nor her morale. Not afraid to work with conservatives-a trait that has helped her break down prejudices but has also cost her the trust of kamikaze liberals. Has probably overcome more obstacles to reach the Ten Best than any other legislator."

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