WASHINGTON, D.C., December 8, 2010 ( – While pro-life advocates lost their battle to defeat Rep. Fred Upton’s bid to head the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, they have scored a major victory with the selection of Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) to chair the subcommittee on health.

“Appointment of pro-life champion Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is a major pro-life victory, as it is the gateway for legislation that embodies almost every pro-life protection America has consistently affirmed in polls and elections,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“We look forward to working with Rep. Joe Pitts … and the rest of the committee to pass meaningful laws that save lives and protect the conscience of taxpayers in the next Congress.”

Dannenfelser said the committee could handle two major pieces of legislation designed to cut off federal funds to abortion providers: the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,’ sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), and the ‘Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act’ sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).

Although pro-life groups were not successful in getting Rep. Upton’s pro-life opponent, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), to take the helm of the Energy and Commerce committee, a letter from Upton seems to indicate that he got the message and will strive to keep social and fiscal conservatives happy.

In a Monday letter to the GOP House leadership he said that he has a “conservative agenda” and will “protect the sanctity of human life by rigorous oversight and passing legislation to permanently ensure that no federal funds go toward abortion.”

However, when Upton described himself as a “pro-lifer” earlier this year, when he first began vying for the leadership of the committee, National Right to Life Committee director Douglas Johnson retorted that Upton has one of the least pro-life records among Republicans.

“When the 112th Congress convenes, Mr. Upton’s career score (62%), on NRLC- scored floor votes, will be the sixth lowest of any member of the Republican Conference,” wrote Johnson to the House Republican Steering Committee. “Of even greater significance is the fact that most of the pro-life issues on which Mr. Upton has taken the wrong position are issues that fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Upton’s votes included votes for cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, RU-486, and against naming a child a separate victim of violence, and twice against Pence’s bills to defund Planned Parenthood.

Pitts, on the other hand, famously co-authored the Stupak-Pitts amendment that would have prevented public funds from financing elective abortions under the national health care law, the Affordable Care Act.