For an hour Thursday, the House engaged in an emotional and personal debate over embryonic stem cell research and when life begins. At issue was Rep. David Rivera's insertion of a budget provision that would bar universities from spending state money for that purpose.
An amendment by Rep. Franklin Sands, the Democratic leader, to remove the provision failed on a 68-46 vote, with five Republicans siding with Democrats and two Democrats siding with Republicans. That vote means Rivera's anti-stem cell language, for now, remains in the House budget bill (HB 5001).
Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, spoke of his father's struggle with Parkinson's disease and how stem cell research might find a cure. He said no program exists to preserve embryos frozen in fertility clinics, and added: "Let's at least use them to make people's lives better."
Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, pausing several times to hold back tears, said his mother also has Parkinson's. "She is obviously against using public money to fund stem cell research. She understands the importance of all human life. She values that above everything," Eisnaugle said.
"Who are we to play God?" asked Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa. "It's not life as a frozen object."
The Republicans who voted to remove the research ban were Homan, Planas and Faye Culp, R-Tampa, Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, and Ron Schultz, R-Homosassa. The Democrats who voted to protect the ban were Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, and James Bush III, D-Miami.
-- Steve Bousquet