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
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 information.
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 unconstitutional.
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
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'..."