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GOP senator laments greater federal protections for turtle eggs than unborn babies

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said during a speech on the Senate floor how endangered species, such as turtles and eagles, have greater federal legislative protection than the unborn.

“It’s federal law right now that we protect turtle eggs,” Lankford noted during a speech before a vote last week on a Democratic bill to guarantee abortion rights nationwide, which ultimately failed.

Recounting how he engaged a pro-abortion person recently, Lankford said he told him, “If you destroy a turtle egg, it’s a federal offense with a very big fine. If you destroy an eagle egg, it’s very big offense with a federal fine.”

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“Do you find that odd that in federal law we protect an eagle egg, acknowledging that’s an eagle inside that egg, and we protect a turtle egg saying we acknowledge that’s a turtle inside that egg, but we allow the destruction of children?” Lankford further recounted from his conversation with the unnamed man.


“To my shock, they responded, ‘Well, turtles and eagles are endangered,’ so they should be protected,” the senator added.

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“And I’m called the extremist,” Lankford quipped.

American eagles are specially protected by The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which was enacted in 1940 and has been amended several times since. The law prohibits anyone from taking bald or golden eagles without a permit issued by the secretary of the interior. The legislation extends to the eagles’ eggs, nests and even feathers.

Nesting bald eagle with baby

A violation of the Act can lead to a $100,000 fine for an individual or $200,000 for an organization, as well as imprisonment for up to a year upon first offense. Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second offense of the Act is a felony.

All seven sea turtle species are globally classified as endangered or vulnerable, which provides them federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1973 and makes it illegal to harass, hurt or kill them.

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Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., speaks at a campaign stop in Clancy, Montana.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., echoed Lankford’s argument the same day on the Senate floor while standing next to a poster showing turtle hatchlings next to babies.

“If you were to take or destroy the eggs of a sea turtle, the criminal penalties are severe,” Daines said. “Why do we have laws in place that protect the eggs of a sea turtle or the eggs of eagles? Because when you destroy an egg, you’re killing a preborn baby sea turtle or a preborn baby eagle.”

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