Three years ago, the bald eagle was removed from the federal registry of endangered species. Some attribute that success to the protection and conservation of the majestic bird as a result of the BALD EAGLE PROTECTION ACT passed in 1940 and its subsequent amendments (16 U.S.C. §§ 668-668d, June 8, 1940, as amended 1959, 1962, 1972, and 1978).
The original Act noted that the Continental Congress in 1782 adopted the bald eagle as a national icon and the eagle subsequently went on to become the symbolic representation of our new nation as well as the American ideals of freedom. However, within a hundred years of adopting the bald eagle as the national symbol – the bird was nearly extinct in this country.
So the law was passed that made it a federal offense to “…pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb…a bald or golden eagle, alive or dead; or any part of its nest or egg of these eagles….”
The original penalty for violating this law was $5,000 or a year in prison. However, under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, as amended in 1987, the fine soared to $100,000 for guilty individuals who tried to “…pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb…a bald or golden eagle, alive or dead; or any part, nest or egg of these eagles….”
I think it’s great that this law may have brought the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction and refocused the nation’s attention on the importance of wildlife conservation.
However, I want to focus on the underlined portion of the above statute that protects the egg(s) of these eagles. According to http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/ once a female eagle lays her egg it takes 35 days for it to hatch into an eaglet and that eaglet may live for 30 years in the wild.
Even though the eagle is no longer endangered, its eggs are still federally protected while they’re still in the mother eagle; once they are laid; through the 35-day incubation period and beyond through hatching. In fact, even the nonliving eagle egg shell is protected by the federal law. Don’t believe me, go back and re-read the statue which protects “…any part of its nest or egg of these eagles.”
Putting aside all political and religious viewpoints – speaking from a strictly human dignity perspective – does it strike anybody else as a colossal disconnect that an empty, inanimate broken egg shell or part of an eagle’s nest have greater legal protection in this country than an unborn human embryo or fetus?