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Hyde in 2002

The good pol

Human Race | Friends remember Henry Hyde as a conservative leader willing to take unpopular stands

Issue: "Daniel of the Year," Dec. 15, 2007

Gentleman. Statesman . . . Zealot? Even as funeral arrangements for former Rep. Henry Hyde (see The Buzz, Dec. 8) were being set for last Friday at St. John Neumann Church in St. Charles, Ill., pro-abortion activists fumed online about the Illinois Republican's greatest legacy, the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, the amendment slashed federally funded abortions from about 300,000 a year to a relative few. In a Dec. 3 Huffington Post op-ed, Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood, called Hyde "a zealot" who "hoist[ed] himself on the petard of his own extremism."

Those who knew him say Feldt's purple locution would likely have given Hyde a chuckle. The silver-haired, cigar-wielding former House majority leader enjoyed a good joke. "He was a man of great intelligence and tremendous learning, but he was very unpretentious, not puffed up with himself," said National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson.

A World War II veteran and Georgetown/Loyola grad, Hyde, as a young trial lawyer, switched from Democrat to Republican. He was also a staunchly anti-communist conservative who earned the loyalty of constituents and colleagues even while sometimes taking unpopular positions. For example, Hyde supported funding the Contras in 1980s Nicaragua. He opposed term limits for lawmakers. And unlike most of the GOP, he supported some forms of gun control.

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Late in his career, Hyde became a kind of bogeyman to those on the left-both for his role as leader of Bill Clinton's impeachment trial and for his relentless legislative work on behalf of the unborn. "Like Wilberforce and Lincoln, Congressman Hyde saw the morality and effectiveness of putting legal fences around a social evil," said Clarke Forsythe, chief counsel for Americans United for Life. Hyde "pressed for principle," Forsythe added, "but when he could not get all of the good immediately, he understood that the goal of politics is not the perfect good, it's the greatest good possible."

Lethal dose?

Businessman accused of drugging girlfriend with RU-486

It was like a scene from a Hitchcock film: Darshana Patel became suspicious when her boyfriend, Manishkumar Patel, offered her a smoothie in a cup with powder on the rim. Darshana refused the drink, but it was too late: She miscarried for the second time in a year. In a criminal complaint, the 39-year-old Wisconsin physician alleges that she had the powder laboratory tested and that it turned out to be RU-486, or mifepristone, the substance used to induce "medical" abortions. A search of Manishkumar's home turned up a cache of RU-486 pills.

Authorities on Nov. 30 charged Manishkumar, 34, an Appleton, Wis., businessman, with seven felonies including attempted first-degree homicide of an unborn child. Patel is a common Indian name, and Darshana and Manishkumar are not related; in fact, Manishkumar is married to another woman. He and Darshana had been engaged in a long-term affair that had already produced another child, now 3. Police are investigating whether Manishkumar may earlier have dosed Darshana's food with RU-486, causing this miscarriage and another in 2006.

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