The Hyde Factor
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 96 13:57:40 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The Hyde Factor
[And no Jekyl in sight... -psl]
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1996 //
Jacking in from the "Is That Your Peyote or Mine?" Port:
Washington, DC -- Hell hath no fury like a piece of legislation that comes
around and bites its author on the ass. Enter Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.)
You remember Hyde. He's the wheezing, corpulent, white-haired gnome on
steroids that snuck language into the telecom reform bill that makes it a
crime to even mention abortion in an electronic format.
Hyde's pathetic legislative slight of hand revived the all but dead Comstock
Act, which was enacted when General Ulysses S. Grant was president. It was
aimed at stopping activists of the day from distributing printed abortion
Oh, the humiliation of it all. First, Hyde was little more than the water
boy for Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.), being made to introduce Exon's
Communications Indecency Act language into the House telecom reform bill.
Second, even as my gnarled fingers hammer out this Dispatch, the American
Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of other groups are in a Philly court,
claiming provisions of the reform bill that Hyde helped make law are
Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't exactly be thrilled having to
shoulder the shame of being known as the legislator that wrote such an
egregious rat bastard bill that the courts deem it unconstitutional.
In fact, when the courts do overturn this blatant affront to free speech,
those in Congress responsible for it should be impeached. The charge?
Criminal negligence and terminal ignorance of the Constitution they have
sworn an oath to serve.
And when that happens, we can call it the "Hyde Factor." Just imagine,
lawmakers would forever live in fear of writing legislation that would raise
the specter of the "Hyde Factor" kicking in.
I'm licking my chops already, thinking of standing up during a press
conference to ask: "Senator, with all the controversy surrounding this
bill, aren't you afraid the fallout might invoke the 'Hyde Factor'?" And
then I would sit down and watch the little beads of sweat form on the
Senator's upper lip.
As if all this weren't enough, consider the twisted political vortex Hyde
finds himself in today, as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, which falls
under his chairmanship as head of the House Judiciary Committee, holds an
oversight hearing on abortion procedures.
Political Pretzel Logic
In preparation for the hearing, Hyde sent letters to all those asked to
testify. In that March 8 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Dispatch,
Hyde says that the Subcommittee "puts prepared statements for hearings on
the Internet to allow access to the public." To facilitate that, Hyde
asked that all testimony be included on a disk.
The "Murder, She Wrote" fans among you will have already sniffed out the
thinly veiled plot about to unfold here.
A March 15 letter to Hyde from Kathryn Kolbert, vice president of the Center
for Reproductive Law and Policy, on behalf of a doctor asked to testify at
the hearing, lays bear Hyde's political pretzel logic.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Dispatch, tells Hyde that the
doctor he asked to testify must decline. Kolbert is representing the
doctor in litigation challenging an Ohio bill which bans certain abortion
procedures. However, "[m]ost importantly, your March 8, 1996 invitation
is clear that the... prepared statements for hearings be put on the
Internet," Kolbert says. If the doctor were to comply with such a request
he "is extremely concerned that this practice may subject him to criminal
liability" as defined under the same language that Hyde himself inserted in
the telecom bill that criminalizes the transferring of abortion information
on the Internet!
The doctor's testimony "could be considered advertising, something you
explicitly said would be criminal," Kolbert wrote to Hyde. "Moreover,
discussion of the availability of abortion at his facilities, as well as
the medical aspects of the procedure, may be criminal violation under the
explicit terms of the new telecommunications law," she says.
This one incident speaks volumes. Not only about extreme chilling effects
of the anti-indecency provisions in this bill, but also about how truly
clueless Hyde appears to be with respect to his own legislation.
And remember, this was testimony to be held before the CONSTITUTION
Subcommittee. Hello? Maybe Hyde should tap that campaign warchest and
buy a fucking clue.
Like I said, when the anti-indecency provisions of this bill are deemed
unconstitutional, they should hold impeachment hearings based on criminal
stupidity. If nothing else, it will give the media hacks a new catch
phrase: "And now, Sir, about that pesky 'Hyde Factor'..."
© 1996 Peter Langston