TALLAHASSEE -- During hours of passionate debate Wednesday, emotions ran high.
By the end, the Republican-led Florida House approved six abortion bills including a broader ban on third-term abortions, tighter requirements for notifying parents when a minor seeks an abortion, and a measure requiring that women be offered an opportunity to view and hear a description of ultrasound images before receiving an abortion. A similar ultrasound bill was vetoed last year by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
But an argument between two Democrats created the most drama, with papers flying and a pen angrily tossed into a waste basket.
The fireworks broke out when Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, quoted the Bible and said she planned to break ranks.
“Thou shall not kill,” Campbell, who was born in Haiti, told her colleagues before a vote on HB 1247, the parental notification bill. It passed 82 to 35.
“This is not a bill for Republicans or Democrats because it’s a Republican bill,” Campbell said during discussion of HJR 1179, which proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit public funding of abortions. “This is Bible principles.”
Her remarks elicited a standing ovation and loud cheers from Republicans.
The resolution passed 82 to 35. If the companion passes the Senate, voters will consider the amendment in November 2012.
Rep. Scott Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the GOP abortion bills, was so upset with Campbell for siding with Republicans he told her he’d get an opponent to unseat her in two years.
Campbell’s retort: “You have no right. God put me here.”
Randolph flung some of her papers at her and threw her pen in the trash, according to Campbell and other lawmakers who witnessed the outburst. They said Campbell threw some items back at him.
Hours later, apparently by coincidence, Miami resident Matthew Tisdol, announced he would run against Campbell.
Tisdol said he hadn’t talked to Randolph.
“I’m not familiar with that name,” said Tisdol, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the House seat that Democrat Patrick Julien from North Miami Beach holds.
Julien also sided with Republicans on the abortion bills, likening abortion to “genocide.”
Wednesday marks the second day the House spent hours discussing and debating abortion bills.
Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, shared that when his daughter was 16, she faced a tough choice when she became pregnant.
“I encouraged her, looking at what she stared at alone, maybe abortion would be the best option. She chose life,” he said. “About 12 months later, that baby girl and I walked her down the aisle to marry the child’s father. Twenty-five years later, today, they’re a healthy, happy family. Two words changed my life. Those two words are great-grandfather.”
Hooper sat down, grabbing for a Kleenex. Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, rubbed his back, and at least a dozen of his colleagues came over to thank him for opening up about his family’s experience.
Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, noted that carrying the baby to term was her choice.
Hooper told the story during debate of HB 97, which bans insurance plans created through federal health care legislation from covering abortions.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Destin, said criticism leveled by Democrats that Republicans have spent too much time on abortion when shoring up the state’s struggling economy should be the top priority, is misplaced.
“Nothing is more fundamental to what we do than the preservation and protection of life. It’s where everything begins,” Gaetz said. “This is a day to rejoice. This is a great day for Florida.”
His bill passed by a vote of 80 to 37. A Senate companion could come up for a vote before the end of this week.
Representatives voted 81-37 in favor of the ultrasound measure, HB 1127. The Senate version is still in committee.
HB 501, which directs proceeds from sales of “Choose Life” license plates to an organization that provides services to pregnant women instead of counties, passed by a vote of 82 to 35. A Senate bill is ready for a floor vote.
And finally, the House voted 79-36 in favor of HB 1397, which expands the ban on third-trimester abortions to include viability of the fetus. Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, is the bill sponsor.