RealTime: Former Congressman Henry Hyde Dies

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.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • invalid-0

    Emily & readers,

    I’m thankful for what Henry Hyde did – rescue 1 million Americans from destruction. That is the modest estimate of how many are alive in this country today because of the labors of this man, and the Hyde amendment.

    In any field of endeavor we would count someone a hero who saves someone else’s life – but a million lives… and when you add to that the productivity of those saved lives, and the generations of Americans they will in turn raise up – awesome, absolutely awesome.

    Life is a cause worth giving your life for.

    -Bro Baker

  • scott-swenson

    Life is worth fighting for, which is why we fight for women's lives and their rights not to have to be sent backwards in time when society didn't believe they had rights to make their own personal health care decisions. Millions of women are alive today because they have access to safe, legal reproductive health care that can include an abortion. Recent studies published in the internationally recognized medical journal The Lancet indicate that where abortion is banned, it does not decline. It just becomes unsafe, and then a mother, likely with other children at home, dies, orphaning the children she is already raising.

    Henry Hyde should be remembered as a good man with political views some people disagree with. When, late in life he faced revelations of an affair, he chalked it up to "youthful indiscretions" – he was in his 40's when it happened.

    Acknowledging that humans make mistakes or have youthful indiscretions made him more forgiving, less political. If only he and those who believe his amendment is saving lives would understand that education, prevention, and safe reproductive health do more to achieve the goals they seek, then we could talk legacy.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor