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When the biotechnology industry or other researchers have embraced methods that conflict with respect for the sanctity of human life, Mr. Upton has usually come down on the wrong side. During the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Upton was the most prominent House Republican among the active opponents of the President’s ban on federal funding of research using tissue obtained from induced abortions. Mr. Upton’s very public campaign against the President’s pro-life position included a “Dear Colleague” letter, interviews, public pleas to the President, and so forth.
More recently, Mr. Upton consistently voted for bills to overturn President George W. Bush’s prohibition on federal funding of research that requires the killing of human embryos. (Most recently, roll call no. 443, June 7, 2007.) Even worse, in 2007, Mr. Upton was one of only 14 Republicans to vote for a bill (H.R. 2560) authored by Diana DeGette that would have codified a “clone and kill policy” (i.e., that would have allowed the creation of any number of human embryos, by cloning, for use in biomedical research – raising the specter of what President Bush aptly termed “human embryo farms”) (roll call no. 439, June 6, 2007). Fortunately, this “clone and kill” bill was defeated, since even many supporters of embryonic stem cell research were unwilling to acquiesce in the deliberate creation of human embryos for the purpose of research.
Throughout his career in the House, Mr. Upton has been a strong defender of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Upton was a prominent supporter of Democratic-led attempts to overturn pro-life regulations governing Title X that were issued by that Administration.
In 2007 and again in 2009, Mr. Upton voted against amendments, offered by Mr. Pence, which would have denied federal Title X funds to Planned Parenthood. (See roll call no. 684, July 19, 2007, and no. 643, July 24, 2009.) The Planned Parenthood empire is a major recipient of federal funds and there is a crying need for energetic oversight of some of the activity that this funding fosters – yet it is most implausible that Mr. Upton’s heart will be in such oversight or in necessary legislative reforms.
The committee has jurisdiction over the FDA, which periodically deals with issues of acute concern to the pro-life movement. During the Clinton Administration, Mr. Upton three times voted against amendments, offered by then-Rep. Tom Coburn, that would have prevented the FDA from approving the abortion pill, RU486. (See roll call no. 173, June 8, 1999; no. 260, June 24, 1998; and no. 373, July 10, 2000.)
Mr. Upton’s unsatisfactory positions on pro-life issues have not been limited to matters that fall within Energy and Commerce jurisdiction. During the Administration of President George W. Bush, one of the major pro-life debates in Congress was over this question: If, during commission of a violent federal crime, a criminal attacks a pregnant woman and kills her unborn child, does that crime have one victim, or two? Polls showed that about 80% of the public said “two victims,” but Mr. Upton’s answer was “one victim” – he twice voted for the Lofgren Substitute, which would have codified the doctrine that such a crime has only one victim. (See roll call no. 464, September 30, 1999, and roll call no. 88, April 26, 2001.)
It is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Upton was reluctant to recognize the unborn child as a member of the human family, even when he or she is killed during commission of a violent federal crime. Perhaps he felt that such a legal recognition would be in tension with his underlying policy position on abortion, which he expressed as follows in a form letter to constituents in 1990: “As I have stated before, my position is that the government should restrict abortions after the point of viability, when a fetus can survive outside of the womb. Before the point of viability, however, I believe that the decision of whether or not to obtain an abortion is a deeply personal, religious and moral issue that should remain with a woman and her family, and not be controlled by the government.”