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Hyde Defends His Praise of Abortion Foe Who Would Violate the Law

Impeachment Hearings

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  • By Thomas Edsall
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 12, 1998; Page A05

    Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) said yesterday he saw no conflict between his ringing defense of the "rule of law" in the ongoing impeachment proceedings and his recent description of an abortion foe who declared he would violate the law as "heroic."

    "Moral law can transcend the laws of man," Hyde said in a statement. "One should never violate one's conscience. On the other hand, one must be prepared to suffer any penalty the law imposes. I believe one has an obligation to oppose unjust laws."

    Hyde provided the statement after being asked about his testimony in April at the trial of Joseph Scheidler, who organized blockades of abortion clinics across the nation.

    Hyde was asked if he would vouch for the integrity "of anyone who openly proclaimed that he would not obey the laws of the land."

    "Absolutely. Absolutely," replied Hyde, one of Congress's leading abortion opponents. "If the law of the land is immoral and condones [the murder of] unborn children, I think that's heroic."

    Hyde testified as a character witness on behalf of Scheidler, a close friend for 25 years, during a highly publicized civil trial in which the National Organization of Women sued Scheidler and other anti-abortion activists for allegedly using threats and intimidation to close abortion clinics.

    NOW accused the defendants of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is normally used against organized crime and members of the mob.

    The jury ordered the defendants to pay $85,927 to two Chicago clinics.

    At the trial, Hyde testified that Scheidler has a "reputation for truth and honesty and veracity" that is recognized "nationwide."

    In a statement on the impeachment votes yesterday, Hyde said: "The rule of law protects you . . . there is such a thing lurking out in the world called abuse of authority and the rule of law is what protects you from it. And so it's a matter of considerable concern to me when our legal system is assaulted by our nation's chief law enforcement officer."

    In his statement yesterday about the Chicago trial, Hyde said: "The Gulag was full of people who didn't obey bad laws and these people were heroic. Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God, someone once said, probably from a prison cell. Whoever he was, he was my brother.

    "We would never have had a civil rights movement or sensitivity to human rights without a refined sense of justice based on the moral law."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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