Life Advocacy Briefing

November 30, 2007 – Special Edition

Farewell, Mr. Hyde, and Thank You / Advocacy for Life


Farewell, Mr. Hyde, and Thank You

WE HAVE LOST A CHAMPION. America’s Lion for Life, former US Rep. Henry J. Hyde, passed away early Thursday at age 83. He had undergone heart surgery in September but was living in a Chicago-area rehabilitation center at the time of his death.

Rep. Hyde, for whom the Hyde Amendment was named, served in the House 32 years after a distinguished career in the Illinois legislature. He was an attorney who loved justice and mercy and was a staunch defender of western civilization. To many in America, his name was synonymous with the cause of Life, for which he led passionately and in whose advance he was instrumental, particularly during his distinguished tenure as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Hyde’s speeches, always dressed with eloquence, always garnished with intellectual and historical allusions and always laced with persuasive appeals to conscience, caught the attention of his colleagues and even of usually cynical reporters, who were taken with his cleverness of phrase and his strength of character in standing for what he believed and for Whom he believed in. Never could it be said of Henry Hyde that he failed in his duty, that he stood idly in silence.

It has been our privilege at Life Advocacy to have known Mr. Hyde personally and to have benefited many times from his graciousness. It has been our privilege to have published transcripts of many of his speeches during the 13 years of our Life Advocacy Briefing. We shall miss Mr. Hyde always and shall always be quick to hold up his memory as a model for those who would be great. Only his passage into eternity could silence this model advocate for Life.

It is our privilege today to reprint excerpts from two of Henry Hyde’s 1996 speeches to Congress, both closing debate on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. We had planned to publish several lines from each of many speeches but found we could not so limit our selections from his wisdom. So today, we publish two. Expect more in future editions of Life Advocacy Briefing. In reading and re-reading his words, we pray his example will inspire those who follow.


Advocacy for Life

Excerpts from speeches of the late Rep. Henry J. Hyde, reprinted from the Congressional Record

March 27, 1996, on the motion to concur in Senate Amendments to HR-1833, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act: “I heard the gentleman from Vermont talk about humility, and he is absolutely right. You do not deal with people’s lives in a sense of arrogance at all. But at the same time, if you believe you are right, if you are convinced that you possess the truth and you remain silent, you become the accomplice of liars and forgers. …

I listened to all of the impassioned remarks of my friends on the other side; they never talk about the unborn. It is the woman, it is her family, it is her doctor, but the little tiny infant in the shadows, the absent person, the invisible person is the unborn, and that is a failure of imagination. That is a compassion deficit.

Mr. Speaker, I guess you have to be healthy to be born. I guess our Declaration of Independence, when it talked about the right to life being inalienable, should have said if you are healthy, if you are healthy. God help you if you are handicapped before you are born. But if you make it through the birth canal, we will give you a preferred parking place.

… The partial-birth abortion … is an extermination of a defenseless little life whose little arms and little legs are wiggling until that scissors gets shoved in his neck, and then they stiffen. … There is a coarsening of our national conscience when you tolerate this form of torture. …

If defending human dignity is political, then I plead guilty. But somebody has to speak up for that defenseless child almost born, three-quarters born, just the little head left, and they brutally kill that little child, and you do it in the name of compassion. …

This bill outlaws a uniquely barbaric method of abortion. Even to describe it is painful, but it is not as painful as the pain that little unborn child feels. If steel traps are too brutal for wild animals, what is too brutal for a tiny member of the human family, an almost-born infant? … We need a PETA for humans, people for the ethical treatment of tiny, defenseless, cannot-rise-up-in-the-streets, cannot-vote, cannot-escape members of the human family. You would not treat a coyote like you treat this little almost-born baby.

… What is the purpose of the law, to protect the weak from the strong. What is weaker than a little child almost born, and you destroy that child in a barbaric way? …

The only thing Members consider is the autonomy of the woman, the woman. Well, God bless the woman, and she needs help and care and love and nurturing. But what about the little baby? Why do you leave that out of your equation, out of your calculus? … What about the pain felt by the little baby? Not a word, not a word. Is there anything, is there anything we say no to? Is everything permitted? God help us if that is true. Let us draw the line here. This should not be tolerated.

Sept. 19, 1996, on the motion to override the Clinton veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban: … Mr. Speaker, in his classic novel Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky has his murderous protagonist Raskolnikov complain that “Man can get used to anything, the beast!” That we are even debating this issue, that we have to argue about the legality of an abortionist plunging a pair of scissors into the back of the tiny neck of a little child whose trunk, arms and legs have already been delivered and then suctioning out his brains, only confirms Dostoyevsky’s harsh truth.

We were told in committee by an attending nurse that the little arms and legs stop flailing and suddenly stiffen as the scissors is plunged in. People who say “I feel your pain” are not referring to that little infant.

What kind of people have we become that this procedure is even a matter for debate? Can we not draw the line at torture, and baby torture at that? If we cannot, what has become of us? We are all incensed about ethnic cleansing; what about infant cleansing? There is no argument here about when human life begins. The child who is destroyed is unmistakably alive, unmistakably human and unmistakably brutally destroyed.

The justification for abortion has always been the claim that a woman can do with her own body what she will. If you still believe that this four-fifths-delivered little baby is a part of the woman’s body, then I am afraid your ignorance is invincible.

I finally figured out why supporters of abortion-on-demand fight this infanticide ban tooth and claw – because for the first time since Roe v. Wade, the focus is on the baby, not the mother, not the woman but the baby and the harm that abortion inflicts on an unborn child, or in this instance [on] a four-fifths-born child. That child whom the advocates of abortion on demand have done everything in their power to make us ignore, to dehumanize, is as much a bearer of human rights as any Member of this House. To deny those rights is more than the betrayal of a powerless individual. It betrays the central promise of America, that there is, in this land, justice for all.

The supporters of abortion-on-demand have exercised an amazing capacity for self-deception by detaching themselves from any sympathy whatsoever for the unborn child, and in so doing, they separate themselves from the instinct for justice that gave birth to this country.

The President, reacting angrily to this challenge to his veto, claims not to understand why the morality of those who support a ban on partial-birth abortions is superior to the morality of “compassion” that he insists informed his decision to reject Congress’s ban on what Senator Moynihan has said is “too close to infanticide.”

Let me explain, Mr. President. There is no moral nor, for that matter, medical justification for this barbaric assault on a partially born infant. Dr. Pamela Smith, director of medical education in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, testified to that, as have many other doctors.

Dr. C. Everett Koop, the last credible Surgeon General we had, was interviewed by the American Medical Association on August 10, and he was asked:

  • Question: “President Clinton just vetoed a bill on partial-birth abortions. In so doing, he cited several cases in which women were told these procedures were necessary to preserve their health and their ability to have future pregnancies. How would you characterize the claims being made in favor of the medical need for this procedure?” Answer, quoting Dr. Koop: “I believe that Mr. Clinton was misled by his medical advisors on what is fact and what is fiction in reference to late-term abortions.”
  • Question: “In your practice as a pediatric surgeon, have you ever treated children with any of the disabilities cited in this debate? Have you operated on children born with organs outside of their bodies?” Answer: “Oh, yes, indeed. I’ve done that many times. The prognosis usually is good. There are two common ways that children are born with organs outside of their body. One is an omphalocele, where the organs are out but still contained in the sac composed of the tissues of the umbilical cord. I have been repairing those since 1946. The other is when the sac has ruptured. That makes it a little more difficult. I don’t know what the national mortality [rate] would be, but certainly more than half of those babies survive after surgery. Now every once in a while, you have other peculiar things, such as the chest being wide open and the heart being outside the body. And I have even replaced hearts back in the body and had children grow to adulthood.”
  • Question: “And live normal lives?” Answer: “Living normal lives. In fact, the first child I ever did with a huge omphalocele much bigger than her head went on to develop well and become the head nurse in my intensive care unit many years later.”

The abortionist who is a principal perpetrator of these atrocities, Dr. Martin Haskell, has conceded that at least 80 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performs are entirely elective; 80 percent are elective. And he admits to over a thousand of these abortions, and that is some years ago.

We are told about some extreme cases of malformed babies as though life is only for the privileged, the planned and the perfect. Dr. James McMahon, the late Dr. James McMahon, listed nine such abortions he performed because the baby had a cleft lip. …

Well, the President claims he wants to solve a problem by adding a health exception to the partial-birth abortion ban. That is spurious, as anyone who has spent ten minutes studying the federal law understands. Health exceptions are so broadly construed by the Court as to make any ban utterly meaningless.

If there is [one] consistent commitment that has survived the twists and the turns in policy during this administration, it is an unshakable commitment to a legal regime of abortion-on-demand. Nothing is or will be done to make abortion rare. No legislative or regulatory act will be allowed to impede the most permissive abortion license in the democratic world. The President would do us all a favor and make a modest contribution to the health of our democratic process if he would simply concede this obvious fact. …

Mr. Speaker, our souls have been scarred by one-and-a-half-million abortions every year in this country. Our souls have so much scar tissue there is not room for any more. And say, what do we mean by human dignity if we subject innocent children to brutal execution when they are almost born? …

We have had long and bitter debates in this House about assault weapons. Those scissors and that suction machine are assault weapons worse than any AK-47. One might miss with an AK-47; the doctor never misses with his assault weapon, I can assure my colleagues.

It is not just the babies that are dying for the lethal sin of being unwanted or being handicapped or malformed. We are dying, and not from the darkness but from the cold, the coldness of self-brutalization that chills our sensibilities, deadens our conscience and allows us to think of this unspeakable act as an act of compassion. If my colleagues vote to uphold this veto, if they vote to maintain the legality of a procedure that is revolting even to the most hardened heart, then please do not ever use the word compassion again. …

By upholding this tragic veto, those colleagues join the network of complicity in supporting what is essentially a crime against humanity, for that little, almost-born infant struggling to live is a member of the human family, and partial-birth abortion is a lethal assault against the very idea of human rights and destroys, along with a defenseless little baby, the moral foundation of our democracy because democracy is not, after all, a mere process. It assigns fundamental rights and values to each human being, the first of which is the inalienable right to life. …

At the end of the twentieth century, is the crowning achievement of our democracy to treat the weak, the powerless, the unwanted, as things? To be disposed of? If so, we have not elevated justice; we have disgraced it. …

I am not the least embarrassed to say that I believe one day each of us will be called upon to render an account for what we have done, and maybe more importantly, what we fail to do in our lifetime, and while I believe in a merciful God, I believe in a just God, and I would be terrified at the thought of having to explain at the final Judgment why I stood unmoved while Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was being reenacted here in my own country.

This debate has been about an unspeakable horror. While the details are graphic and grisly, it has been helpful for all of us to recognize the full brutality of what goes on in America’s abortuaries day in and day out, week after week, year after year. We are not talking about abstractions here. We are talking about life and death at their most elemental, and we ought to face the truth of what we oppose or support stripped of all euphemisms, and the queen of all euphemisms is “choice,” as though one is choosing vanilla and chocolate instead of a dead baby or a live baby.

Now, we have talked so much about the grotesque; permit me a word about beauty. We all have our own images of the beautiful; the face of a loved one, a dawn, a sunset, the evening star. I believe nothing in this world of wonders is more beautiful than the innocence of a child.

Do my colleagues know what a child is? She is an opportunity for love, and a handicapped child is an even greater opportunity for love. Mr. Speaker, we risk our souls, we risk our humanity, when we trifle with that innocence or demean it or brutalize it. We need more caring and less killing.

Let the innocence of the unborn have the last word in this debate. Let their innocence appeal to what President Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Let our votes prove Raskolnikov is wrong. There is something we will never get used to. Make it clear once again there is justice for all, even for the tiniest, most defenseless in this, our land.


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