Pro-Life Groups Want Pitts to Chair Health Subcommittee if Upton is Chairman

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 19, 2010   |   12:53PM   |   Washington, DC

The debate over Congressman Fred Upton becoming the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee has taken a new turn as pro-life groups are pressing for input on a key subcommittee.

Upton has come under fire from both pro-life organizations and fiscal conservative groups because his is weak on both issues and they want someone else to head the important committee that will lead the fight to repeal or water down ObamaCare.

Connie Hair of Human Events recently highlighted Upton’s weak voting record on pro-life issues, but he is still seen as the likely new chairman of the committee.

Should he assume leadership of the panel, two pro-life groups say they want a respected pro-life congressman to lead the Subcommittee on Health, which would start any dismantling of ObamaCare or its provisions allowing abortion funding and rationing.

Yesterday, the National Right to Life Committee sent a letter to members of the House Republican Steering Committee, which makes the decisions on committee and subcommittee chairs, saying pro-life advocates want pro-life Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania as the head of the subcommittee.

The letter, written by NRLC legislative director Douglas Johnson, according to Politico, reads:

“Because Mr. Upton’s record demonstrates a disagreement with pro-life policies on multiple critical issues that fall within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we urge you to withhold support for his ascension to the chairmanship unless and until there is assurance that the Health Subcommittee will be chaired by Mr. Pitts, and unless all of the Republican vacancies on the committee will be filled by Members who are firmly committed to pro-life positions.”

Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony List also weighed in saying it supports Pitts for the subcommittee chairmanship.

“Appointment of Congressman Joe Pitts, champion in the fight against abortion in health care, to Chairman of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is a must-send message from GOP House leadership to pro-life America,” said SBA president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement to

Dannenfelser continued:

It is deeply troubling to the entire pro-life movement that the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over life and death policies affecting unborn children, would have a mixed voting record on abortion. 

The powerful Energy and Commerce Committee is the gateway for almost every pro-life protection America has consistently affirmed in polls and elections.  It is critical that the Energy and Commerce committee reflect the values of the pro-life American majority that sent a freshman class to Congress with marching orders to end all federal funding of abortion.  All its members, including new appointments, should embrace these pro-life values. 

Given Congressman Fred Upton’s record, Congressman Joe Pitts’ appointment as Chairman of the Health Subcommittee – the critical subcommittee for abortion policy – is a non-negotiable.

Upton is the next in line in terms of seniority to head the panel, though pro-life Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is hoping the Steering Committee will grant a term-limits waiver and allow him to chair it.

Some have also said pro-life Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois is a possible chairman of the committee, though political observers say that’s an unlikely scenario.

The letter is seen by some as getting the pro-life movement concessions for Upton becoming chairman, which is seen as the most likely result of the debate over the chairmanship.

“It has been widely reported that Congressman Fred Upton is the frontrunner for the full committee chairmanship. This prospect raises the gravest concerns from the pro-life perspective,” the NRLC letter says.

It continues: “We acknowledge that Mr. Upton has voted pro-life on a number of significant issues, including curbs on direct federal funding of abortion. Moreover, in recent weeks he has stated his intent to actively move certain pieces of key pro-life legislation. But these statements do not greatly comfort us, in light of the 24-year record summarized above. If, however, the Health Subcommittee were to be chaired by a Member with a long history of bold leadership on pro-life issues, our objections to a prospective Upton chairmanship would be greatly mitigated.”