Congressman Henry Hyde was the keynote speaker at the “Friends for Life” pro-life conference in Middleton Nova Scotia earlier this year. The following is the text of the second and last part of his address.
“Friends for Life” was the Nova Scotia Right to Life conference organized by Valley Action for Life.
You know, Ronald Reagan has his homely little way of looking at the unborn child’s biology, and it’s pretty hard to argue with. He talked about “the benefit of doubt.” He suggested we give the benefit of the doubt to the notion that the unborn is a human being. The analogy is this. You’re hunting with a friend of yours in the woods when the bushes rustle and he grabs his shotgun, aims and says, “I’ve always wanted to get me a moose.” You say, “Wait a minute. You don’t know what’s back there. That could be another hunter.” “Well, yeah, but it kind of sounds like a moose.” And he pulls the trigger and kills another hunter. He’s committed a crime. What was done is criminally negligent. He failed to give the benefit of the doubt to what very well might have been another hunter.
If you’re not going to consider the humanity of the pre-born without proof that it isn’t human, that it is animal, vegetable, mineral, or whatever else you want to call it but it isn’t human. If you’re not even giving the child the benefit of the doubt, that’s pretty sad. You know we pro-lifers get criticized and justly so sometimes. Pro-lifers can be annoyingly and strident and single-minded but so can anti-war people, so can soccer fans. Anything people get hung-up on strongly they can get obnoxious about, and life and death is something to get excited about and pro-lifers so get excited about it. I don’t fault them for that, although a lot of people are offended by bad taste I am. I would prefer that we were all brilliant elocutionists and logicians and we could outline the case in poetic terms. But we have a strong feeling in our hearts that someone’s life is at stake. I know that if I were drowning, I wouldn’t care about manners of dress. I’d just want to be saved. So I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for even strident pro-lifers, because I understand.
Now people talk about the pictures – have you seen the pictures of little fetuses in buckets? I’ve seen people turn away in agonized disgust because they’re in such bad taste. Well, okay, but I remember the films of Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald when they took the people from the villages nearby to show them what had happened and these people turned away. They didn’t want to look at the mass graves or ovens and they said, “We didn’t know. We didn’t know.” Okay, but don’t say, “We didn’t know” about what abortion is and what it does. The pictures are there.
They want to talk about the hard cases. They want to talk about the children who are born with terrible handicaps, the hydrocephalic child with water on the brain that won’t live six months, born as the result of some incestuous relationship. I could outline cases that are incredibly difficult when you start to think about it and that’s what they want to talk about. Let them talk about those, and we should talk about those, but never forget that half of one per cent of the abortions are these hard cases. Ninety-nine and a half per cent are normal, healthy little babies who are thrown away because they are innocently inconvenient.
Now saving somebody’s life requires many times an act of hardship, an act of courage – to run in front of a train and snatch a baby away from the cow-catcher as it comes down. That’s heroism. And the best heroism is that which you don’t have to think about, you just do. If you have to think about it maybe you won’t do it. There’s the tough kind of heroism, protracted heroism – taking care of a sick baby for years and years or a sick relative or someone who’s elderly and can’t care for himself and who is incompetent, in bed, and who is irascible and who doesn’t appreciate all you’re doing for him – that’s protracted heroism. But life sometimes calls upon some of us for protracted, prolonged heroism, and it is incumbent on all of us as members of the human family, as brothers and sisters, to be supportive of those whom God has called to this protracted heroism. It is a tremendous example of love and a call to us for love.
In my little courthouse of my mind, I have an indictment. A three-count indictment, which, when I have nothing else to do, I levy on pro-abortionists. The first count is simple. I accuse them of incredible simplicity. Perhaps you can solve the problems of poverty and disease by getting rid of people. Get rid of them, don’t have children, abort them. When they’re conceived and after they’re born somehow get rid of them. Just get rid of people and solve people problems. Well, okay, that is true, but that’s kind of a fascist solution – if people are in the way you dispose of the people.
The second count of my indictment is that pro-abortionists are guilty of the most crushing, brutal pessimism – incredible pessimism. Every kid who is born handicapped, every mother who has ten other kids and lives in poverty, every child who doesn’t have the quality of life that’s appropriate to our day and age is going to be a loser, he’s going to be a criminal, he’s going to be a burden on society and better that he should not have lived.
What arrogance. What pessimism.
If I could be one place in history and have my choice I would prefer to be the Vienna Opera House on May 7, 1824, when Beethoven conducted the premiere performance of his Ninth Symphony. Beethoven was absolutely stone deaf. He said, “I lead a wretched life, I am deaf,” and yet he scribbled out his Ninth Symphony without being able to hear a note. He knew too that the light in his mind was flickering, but he wanted to finish this work of unequalled genius, and there at the Opera House he conducted its premiere performance. He hadn’t heard a note, and when he finished, two members from the chorus came up to the stage and turned him around so he could see the audience standing and weeping and cheering.
Terry Wilde was born in England. His mother took thalidomide – he had no arms, no legs, and only one eye. He was brought into this world and then left in an alley. Terry was a little grotesquerie who came under the care of a wealthy English woman who took care of cases like this. She called her home “The Guild of the Brave Poor Thing.” She raised Terry till he was ten. And then a couple of losers came along, a woman who was on her third husband, her own children had been taken away from her by the British court which had adjudicated her as an unfit mother. Her husband, her third husband, was an unemployed wounded war veteran and these two losers were permitted to adopt this little armless, legless, one-eyed Terry Wilde.
Terry Wilde has written a book called On The Shoulders of Giants and his father has become an electronic wizard who invented a chair that Terry can move up and down, left and right. Prince Philip has visited with the family and chatted with Terry Wilde and with his father and his mother. Do we need people like that when we get depressed and when we feel that life is just too burdensome for us?
Greg Woteens, born in Rochester, New York, became an Eagle Scout at twenty-three. He is a cerebral paralytic, sits in a wheelchair, cannot talk; you would think he is retarded – he communicates by pointing to the letters in an alphabet. I saw him get his Eagle Scout badge, while watching the ceremony on television one night in Arizona. There he was in Rochester, sitting in his wheelchair, unable to control his musculation, with his mother pinning on his Eagle Scout badge. Across his chest was a belt with all the merit badges he had earned. In the best day I ever had I couldn’t have earned ten per cent of those. The 10 mile hike for example. Greg Woteen crawled on his knees one mile and pushed himself in the wheelchair the remaining nine.
Do we need people like that? Do we need people to show us what can be done if we don’t surrender to the handicap that somehow we found in ourselves?
You know who can’t stand life? The beautiful people. It isn’t the handicapped who hate life; it’s the beautiful people. The John Belushis and the Marilyn Munroes and the rest who have to carry too much of the world’s joy and too much of the world’s adulation and praise and material things. That’s when life gets too heavy. But the people who are handicapped hang on. The suicide rate among the handicapped (despite the young lady from the West Coast, who has reneged and now wants to live) is down near zero. It’s the beautiful people that you have to worry about.
The most helpful person I ever met was an inmate of a therapeutic drug community called Gateway House in Chicago. He’s 32 years old and I said to him, “When is the last time you shot up?” He said, “four years ago.” I said, “What happened?” He said, “I’ve been an addict since I was fourteen, and my friends who thought I had overdosed took me in an alley and stuffed me in a garbage can and I woke up and saw where I was and I crawled out of there and I came here. I can’t read, I can’t write but what I do is I show these dudes, if a guy like me can kick it, they can kick it.”
And when hard-core heroin addicts get to this Gateway House, they find an ignorant literate black man who says, “Hey, I haven’t had any in four years, you can do it, you can do it.” He gives hope to the hopeless; that’s better than any $500 an hour psychiatrist I ever met.
I thought to myself, I am in the presence of somebody who knows what love is all about. Talk about the unwanted, he was taken and stuffed in a garbage can, heroin addict, and what does he do with his life? He gives hope to the hopeless and there’s nobody more hopeless than a hard-core heroin addict.
Look at young Kennedy. That is hopelessness, that is despair, that’s as close to hell on earth as you can find.
Mother Teresa washes the toilets in her hospital every Sunday personally, so that she should remain humble. Isn’t that something?
You know the tragedy is that there isn’t room for one more baby.
She takes the babies from the lepers, she takes the dying from the streets of Calcutta. One man, covered with maggots and sores, was cared for by her and said, “Mother, I live like an animal in the streets, but I’m going to die like an angel.” She knows about poverty and she knows about love.
The last count of my indictment is failure of imagination. I would hate to live and be an accessory to an abortion ethic, I’d hate to support abortion for fear that I’d be penalized for my lack of imagination. Can you imagine the waste of human lives in the abortion ethic, the tidal wave of humanity that’s just wasted, thrown away? The rivers to be crossed, the mountains to be climbed, the secrets and the cures to be discovered, the songs and poems to be written, the things to be done – and one of those little infants, one of those little wasted infants had to go back, had to go back to heaven because the mother or society or whatever didn’t want that child to be born.
Just let me say this to you. I had thought I had seen everything in terms of the unwanted and the rejected and then I visited the refugee camps in Thailand and Malaysia and I saw the little Cambodians who had succeeded in escaping from the Communist peace that has descended on their country.
I talked to an eleven-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of thirty-one people who tried to leave when Pol Pot was killing everybody who had a job of who had an education. And all this child wanted was a pencil. That was his ambition in life.
I condemn doctors who make money out of the abortion racket but I’ve seen doctors working with nothing but heart and soul and love in these refugee camps, and nurses and nurses aides, elderly women. One from Michigan, I’ll never forget her, was over there just to help people.
In these refugee camps I have seen elderly women with tuberculosis, with snakebites, with dysentery, with skin conditions and with bullet wounds and I would look at them and say to myself, “You certainly are the least of God’s creatures.”
But I’m quite wrong. They have legs to run with, they have eyes to weep with, they have voices to cry out with – it’s the pre-born, the pre-born who are voiceless, and the most defenseless and the least of God’s creatures.
And we have been told, you and I, that “Whatsoever you do, my brethren, unto the least of these, you so unto Me.”