Ex-GOP Rep. Hyde dead at 83

Abortion opponent from Ill. was leader in Clinton hearings

November 30, 2007|By Johanna Neuman | Johanna Neuman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Henry J. Hyde, the veteran Republican from the suburbs of Chicago who was a key figure in the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton and wrote a controversial law ending federal financing for abortions, died yesterday at a hospital in Chicago. He was 83.

Mr. Hyde, who retired from Congress at the end of the 2006 session, died at Rush University Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman told the Associated Press he was admitted for persistent renal failure after open-heart surgery in July and suffered a fatal arrhythmia.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Hyde was known as an eloquent speaker and passionate conservative who managed to practice civility toward colleagues even as he pursued policies adverse to many of them.

After the House approved articles of impeachment against Mr. Clinton for lying to a grand jury about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Hyde was one of 13 handlers who presented the case to the Senate, which ultimately voted the resolutions down in February 1999. "All a congressman ever gets to take with him when he leaves is the esteem of his colleagues and constituents," Mr. Hyde summed up. "And we have risked that for a principle, for our duty as we have seen it."

A Roman Catholic who came to Congress in 1975 after the Supreme Court decided the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion, Mr. Hyde spent much of his political capital on overturning the decision - winning passage for the Hyde Amendment that banned federal funding for abortion as well as forcing a ban on partial-birth abortions and stem cell research dependent on embryonic stem cells. As chairman of the GOP Platform Committee, to the reported dismay of presidential candidate Bob Dole, the former senator from Kansas, he also made sure the 1996 platform backed a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

"The nation has lost one of its most enduring pro-life leaders," said a statement from the Concerned Women for America, a leading pro-life advocacy group whose founder, Beverly LaHaye, called Hyde "a giant in the pro-life movement."

President Bush, who awarded Mr. Hyde the Presidential Medal of Freedom this month, said yesterday that Mr. Hyde represented his constituents "with character and dignity" and "used his talents to ... promote a culture of life."

Mr. Hyde is survived by his second wife, Judy Wolverton, three children and four grandchildren, according to the AP. His first wife, Jean Simpson, to whom he was married for 45 years, died of cancer in 1992. His eldest son, Henry "Hank" Hyde Jr., died nearly two years ago of liver cancer.

Johanna Neuman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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