From the Editor: Henry J. Hyde, 1924-2007

On November 29, 2007, the unborn lost one of the strongest advocates for their right to life in Congressman Henry J. Hyde. On the day Congressman Hyde died, National Review Online declared that the Hyde Amendment, which doubtless saved countless lives, is “. . . without question the most important piece of pro-life legislation ever to pass Congress.”

It is only fitting that LLDF honor Congressman Hyde’s memory in the first issue of Lifeline since his passing. If one were to imagine the greeting he received as he entered the gates of heaven, Congressman Hyde’s own words are fitting:

When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought . . . you have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God and a terror will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, “Spare him because he loved us,” and God will look at you and say not, “Did you succeed?” but “Did you try?” (1)

Congressman Hyde’s entire political career was nothing if not an awe-inspiring “try” on behalf of the unborn; certainly the Hyde Amendment can be characterized as a tremendous success. To learn more about the outstanding political career of Congressman Hyde, both his efforts on behalf of the unborn, and many other contemporary issues, LLDF recommends the book, Catch the Burning Flag, a collection of selected eloquent speeches and commentary by Congressman Hyde on many aspects of the abortion debate and other issues such as flag burning as a form of free expression, term limits, the role of government in education, the Iran-Contra Affair and the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, during which Congressman Hyde served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and lead House Manager for the impeachment trial.

Reading this book is akin to listening to a true Statesman articulate his thoughts and opinions on the issues of our day in a gentlemanly manner, even when the issues are rife with emotion. The book dispels the myth that abortion opponents are focused on only one issue.

Noteworthy is Congressman Hyde’s keen insight regarding what were then future political events. For example, the presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Congressman Hyde quotes Mrs. Clinton while campaigning for Bill: “If you elect him, you get me.” Switch the pronouns and, fairly or not, you have what is sure to be an important issue in the 2008 race. Always the consummate Statesman and gentleman, he then states: “That may not be fair to Mrs. Clinton, but fairness is often in short supply in contemporary politics.” Not only were his comments fair, they were on the mark.

Another intriguing segment of Catch the Burning Flag are Congressman Hyde’s speeches related to what he labeled “the melancholy procedure,” the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. Having never heard the speech in its entirety, and remembering the tenor of the coverage by the media during the trial, after having read Congressman Hyde’s closing argument, a new understanding of the Clinton trial developed, altering this reader’s perception of this historic event. (2)

In a culture where we have become cynical about our politicians, Catch the Burning Flag seems to eradicate the cynicism, at least in part. As for Congressman Hyde, whose memory LLDF wants to honor, assuredly he can truly be hailed as “The Honorable Henry J. Hyde.”

1. Editor’s note: Now to avoid a theological debate among friends, let us agree that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ if we accept and believe in His sacrifice and atoning blood.

2. This particular speech is cited in a book entitled In the Interest of Justice: Great Opening and Closing Agruments of the Last 100 Years (Regan Books, 2004), Joel J. Seidemann.

[Life Legal Defense Foundation is making available copies of Catch the Burning Flag: Speeches and Observations of Henry Hyde—If you can give $35 or more, we’ll send you a copy by mail. Just include a note with your donation, or write “Hyde book” on the memo line of your check. This will not affect the tax-deductibility of your donation. Illinois pro-life congressman Henry Hyde, who passed away at the end of November last year, would have been in the thick of our fight against Planned Parenthood’s new murder mill.—Ed.]