Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Hyde

Pro-Lifers will be missing one of their greatest public advocates next month when the new Congress returns to Washington. Henry Hyde (R, Illinois 6) chose not to run for reelection. Hyde has served for 32 years in the U.S. Congress and has been one the pro-life movement’s staunchest advocates.

As Scott has argued here many times, the ways to achieve the pro-life agenda are many and varied. Sometimes they are not as obvious as they may seem and sometimes the politicians who can help achieve them are not the most obvious choices. We wrestle with these issues in the real world and must make our choices accordingly – even if it means having to swallow some pretty tough pills to back some less than optimal candidates along the way. Henry Hyde disappointed many of us when some of his moral failings came to light after the Clinton impeachment debacle. This proved nothing more than that Hyde, like the rest of us, is a fallible human being. But when it comes to advancing pro-life issues, few can hold a candle to him.

Like many social conservatives, Hyde started out as a Democrat, became disillusioned with the left-wing agenda of that party, and switched to the Republican Party as a result. In a recent issue of National Review, Hyde admits that, like many of us in our younger days, he “had never really thought much about abortion.” But that all changed when a fellow Illinois state congressman asked him to co-sponsor a bill to liberalize Illinois abortion law. Hyde considered the legislation by reading a book: The Vanishing Right to Live, by Charles Rice “[and] became convinced that abortion was evil.” Hyde’s subsequent self-education on the issue led to the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1977, a bill that, by the “fairly conservative estimate” of The National Right to Life Committee’s Douglas Johnson, “has saved 1 million human lives in the 30 years that it has been in effect.”

Henry Hyde’s success in this area can be traced to a couple self-evident truths on which he based his opposition to the so-called “pro-choice” agenda. In his 1984 rebuttal to a Mario Cuomo speech at the University of Notre Dame, Hyde condemned …

the rise of militant secular-separationist perspective on the constitutional questions that seek to rule religiously based values “out of order” in the public arena

and specifically targeted “abortion liberty” as …

a profoundly narrow-minded, illiberal position; it constricts rather than expands, the scope of liberty properly understood (emphasis mine)

On behalf of those million human beings he helped save, I would like to thank Henry Hyde for his commitment to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Would that there were more politicians with the same principled conviction.

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