Former Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, architect of the Hyde Amendment, died today at age 83.
As NPR's Julie Rovner reported, Hyde was a freshman member of the minority party when he offered an amendment to ban federal funding for abortion in June 1976 (it became law a year later). "It forced every member of Congress to take a position on the issue," said Douglas Johnson, of the National Right to Life Committee. "It lead to the development of the question of human life, of respect for human life."
Hyde argued to keep the ban on abortion even in case of rape or incest. But, five years later, when faced with the choice to include a rape or incest exception or lose the ban altogether under President Clinton, he made the pragmatic choice to allow the exception.
The National Network of Abortion Funds has been waging a battle to repeal the Hyde Amendment, recognizing that abortion must not only be legal but also accessible.