He’s gone, and with his passing a huge void exists in The House of Representatives. He was dignified, a class act, and was known as the defender of the weakest in our society: the preborn. A spokesman for Washington’s Rush University Medical Center said Henry Hyde died Thursday at 3 a.m. CST at that hospital. There was no immediate word on the cause of his death. However, his family told The Chicago Sun-Times that he had suffered complications from open-heart surgery.
As a young man, former Illinois Representative Henry Hyde was a football player. His remarkable career in public office included 32 years as a representative for the suburban 6th District. He has been described by some political insiders as one of last few remaining “statesmen” in Washington and a never-tiring fighter for life.
Early in his political career, which spanned four decades, Hyde courageously introduced an amendment to prevent federal funding of abortion. Congress adopted the measure, which became known as the Hyde Amendment and continues to protect preborn babies.
He later led the battle to pass the ban on partial-birth abortion. In addition, Hyde authored the Mexico City policy, which prohibits federal money from being used to support abortions abroad.
The Illinois Republican was a Roman Catholic who during his 30 years in Congress blocked federal funding for abortion, which he called an “evil” taking of innocent life. Henry Hyde was a passionate man, but his behavior was never unseemly. He was a man who lived out his belief of what The Bible directs us to do: Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. (Psalm82:3-4)
I heard his passionate pleading for the unborn as he said there were no weaker, needier people in our society than the pre-born humans. He said he had been (at that time) a Representative for more than 25 years, and he was willing to give up his seat, his pension, and his reputation to protect these precious human beings.
Many of his colleagues say his most remarkable achievement was the Hyde Amendment. The measure became the law of the land in 1976 and it bans public funding of abortions through Medicaid. The National Right to Life Committee once conservatively estimated that the Hyde Amendment has prevented at least one million abortions.
Hyde retired from Congress at the end of the last session. Before he officially left government service, President Bush bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was too ill to attend the ceremony. His son, however, accepted the award on his behalf. The White House praised the Illinois Republican as a leading foe of abortion, as a “powerful defender of life” and an advocate for a strong national defense.
Die-hard Democrats will remember him as Henry Hyde, the Republican who steered the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. During that time it was revealed that Henry, himself, had been involved in an adulterous affair 30 years prior. He didn’t deny or make excuses for it. His response was in keeping with his usual class and decorum: We come to this difficult task as flawed human beings, under judgment.
Henry’s death has some interesting thoughts for me. First of all, he died on the 60th anniversary of Israel’s Statehood. I am a Christian, and I do not believe in coincidences. But I’m unsure of what to make of the historical timing of Henry’s death.
Secondly, I think how proud Henry’s family must be of his legacy. I wonder what legacy I will leave behind for my children. Will it be said of me, as it has been said of Henry, that I was a passionate woman who tried to make the world a better place?
Oh, dear God, let it be so.