Leading for Life
What Cardinal O'Connor, John Boehner, and Daniel Lipinski have in common.


Kathryn Jean Lopez

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‘Henry Hyde was one of my heroes,” House Republican leader John Boehner told a crowd on a rooftop in Washington, D.C., over a month after the historic vote in the House of Representatives on the health-care legislation, to which he defiantly said, “Hell, no.”

Receiving from Americans United for Life a Defender of Life award named after the late Illinois Republican congressman, a pro-life leader, Boehner joked, “I know it wasn’t convenient for my mother to have twelve of us” — he has eleven brothers and sisters. “Thank God I was number two.”

About the moment he started talking about his big Catholic family, his mother and father, and the bar his family owned back home in Ohio, Boehner, known to show more emotion than you might expect from his Dean Martin persona, was overflowing with emotion about his friend Henry Hyde and the stakes in the fight for human life.

His comments, and the event, echoed his remarks a few years ago at Henry Hyde’s memorial. There, Boehner remembered his colleague of 16 years: “Treating everyone with dignity and respect came naturally to Henry. Not just because he was kind and full of decency, but because he truly believed all human life is precious. Henry was at peace in the presence of others — even those who disagreed with him most — because of his unshakeable faith in the sanctity of every human life. In a vocation often marked by senseless, noisy debate, Henry Hyde was a clear, calm, and commanding voice for justice, for the defenseless, for the innocent. Always.”

The health-care bill that passed this year, of course, was opposed by the nation’s Catholic bishops, who opposed it despite their stated desires for “universal” health care. It was opposed because on life there can be no compromise. John Boehner knows it. And the culture of death’s victory that March Sunday (of all days) clearly had an impact on him, one that has deepened his resolve. “We may have lost the battle,” he said, “but we will not lose the war.”

He wasn’t alone.

Joining him at the ceremony was another Republican congressman, Chris Smith of New Jersey. Smith is a great defender of human life, both here and abroad. He doesn’t always vote along party lines on some other issues, but he has garnered a great deal of respect nonetheless, thanks to his uncompromising commitment to life. Also in attendance was Rep. Daniel Lipinski, a true pro-life Democrat from Illinois, who stood firm against the health-care legislation in March.