By Dave Andrusko
As we’ve highlighted multiple times, 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, whose life-saving impact (in the words of NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson) “has proven itself to be the greatest domestic abortion reduction law ever enacted by Congress.”
The law, first enacted in 1976 and finally upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980, has saved upwards of two million lives, according to a study by Prof. Michael New.
As we discuss elsewhere today (and many times previously), gutting the Hyde Amendment is a top priority for pro-abortion Hillary Clinton. Her position as her party’s nominee for President has afforded the campaign to force taxpayer funding of abortion much greater visibility.
When Rep. Henry Hyde, for whom the amendment is named, passed away in 2007, the entire Movement, led by NRLC, praised his enormous contributions. For example we explained
Henry Hyde will be remembered by history as the father of the modern pro-life movement for his introduction and sponsorship of the amendment that bears his name, prohibiting federal funding of abortion. Hyde first offered the amendment as a freshman member of Congress in 1976, and it remains in place to this day. The editors of National Review said the Hyde Amendment “is without question the most important piece of pro-life legislation ever to pass Congress.”
The Hyde Amendment also charted a new course for the pro-life movement after 1976 by implementing a strategy to pass protective pro-life measures that would incrementally reduce the number of abortions, while continually seeking the eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade. That strategy has been successful in saving millions of lives from abortion.
In his 1985 book, “For Every Idle Silence,” Congressman Hyde wrote, “It is becoming culturally fashionable to protect the defenseless unborn.” Those words hold true today as polling continually shows the majority of Americans oppose the vast majority of abortions.
Congressional Quarterly once described Hyde as “one of the premier orators in the House. … He speaks with wit, passion, and deep convictions about the conservative causes he holds dear. Nowhere was that better illustrated, perhaps, than during the House floor debate of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2000.
This is not a debate about religious doctrine or even about public policy options. It is a debate about our understanding of human dignity, what it means to be a member of the human family, even though tiny, powerless and unwanted. … We are knee deep in a culture of death. … Look, in this advanced democracy, in the year 2000, is it our crowning achievement that we have learned to treat people as things? Our moment in history is marked by a mortal conflict between a culture of life and a culture of death. God put us in the world to do noble things, to love and to cherish our fellow human beings, not to destroy them. Today we must choose sides.
In honoring Rep. Hyde with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President George W. Bush said that Rep. Hyde “was a gallant champion of the weak and forgotten, and a fearless defender of life in all its seasons.”
Perhaps Hyde’s best-remembered commentary on abortion is this passage, familiar to millions of pro-lifers:
When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. 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?”