Like most five-year-olds, my oldest daughter never stops asking questions. She’s very interested in the ocean, and her old obsession with barracudas was recently replaced with a curiosity about sea turtle babies. “Tell me more about sea turtles,” she asks. So I turned to Google, and this is what I learned with just a few clicks:
During the hatching season from May through August, the female loggerhead sea turtle emerges from the sea and crawls ashore to dig a nest for her eggs.
It’s a cumbersome process, dragging her massive body along the beach and then investing hours in digging a large pit that will soon cradle new life.
When she’s satisfied with her maternal excavation, the female lays roughly 100 eggs, buries her young beneath a layer of sand, and then retreats to the waves leaving her offspring to fend for themselves. She will not clamber onto land again until a new nesting season when she returns to the same shoreline to lay more eggs.
After an average incubation period of two months, the baby sea turtles begin to emerge from their shells.
Once hatched, it’s a cruel number’s game; the baby sea turtles have to beat the odds to make it safely to the ocean depths.
Not only do the baby turtles scrambling for the sea make an easy target for predators like scuttling crabs and hovering seabirds, but the bright lights from property development along the the beach can disorient the hatchlings and cause them to lose their way. More dangers lurk beneath the waves for the baby turtles that are lucky enough to make it to the water. Natural predators, human litter, and shrimp nets all pose a threat to the tiny turtles.
A very small percentage of the hatchlings will ever grow up.
Thankfully, the United States government is not blind to their plight. During nesting season, laws require beach residents to keep lights shielded at night to prevent the hatchlings from becoming confused. Tampering with turtle eggs or nests is also punishable by law. Worldwide, there are more than 70 conservation laws and regulations that apply to sea turtles, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Obviously, the life of the sea turtle is sacred enough to warrant legislation to defend it. But babies? Nah. Sadly, our government does not offer the same protection to unborn babies as it does to baby sea turtles and even sea turtle eggs harboring only the potential for new life.
It’s a big no-no to harm a turtle nest and please, please be sure to dim your beach house lights during hatching season lest you want to confuse a wayward baby sea turtle as well as pay a hefty fine, but, people, let’s not hinder science by restricting the use of human embryos in research. And, certainly, let’s not forbid women from exercising their free will to destroy a human life.
I’m not coldhearted. I don’t think it’s right for beach combers to disrupt turtle nests. Nor am I opposed of executing reasonable laws to protect endangered species (providing they don’t elevate an animal’s needs and rights above that of a human’s). What’s more, I think baby sea turtles are rather cute, and who wouldn’t like to see those little guys transform into giant, graceful, and magnificent mariners one day?
Yet, our own infants can grow up to be so much more. Human babies deserve the right and the chance at life far more than any animal. And women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies deserve to know the truth: That a baby – new life – is sacred and worth keeping and fighting for even when it seems there’s an easier way.
As U.S. Representative John Linder pointed out three years ago in his statement against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007: “If these [embryonic stem cell] researchers were taking this embryonic tissue from the just-laid eggs of loggerhead turtles or bald eagles, they would be fined and jailed. Surely we can do as much for humans.”
But we’re not. We’re doing far less.
Turtles versus babies. There should be no match-up. But as it stands, sea turtle eggs glean more government protection than unborn humans. Roe v. Wade was just the start of it. Last spring President Obama signed an executive order lifting the ban on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (research that is delivering nothing promising as compared to adult stem cell research). Now we’re faced with the possibility of diverting tax dollars to pay for abortions all under the guise of health care.
What does it say about a society where its most endangered specie is quickly becoming a human baby? What does it say when we acknowledge the viability of a sea turtle egg but not a human embryo or a fetus with a strong, beating heart? In the U.S. alone, nearly 4,000 babies lose their lives to abortion every single day. It says we’re as lost as those hapless, disoriented sea turtles aimlessly searching for the sea.
Oh, I know the pro-choice arguments well. I actually have several pro-choice friends, and we’ve always been able to discuss the topic charitably (all of these friends belong to the I-would-never-have-an-abortion-but-I-don’t-believe-we-may-take-that-right-away-from-someone-else-camp). It’s a woman’s choice. It is her body. We cannot force her to have a baby that is not planned or wanted. But why is it that the bigger person wins? If a parent struck his child in anger delivering a fatal blow because he was stressed, we wouldn’t say, “Well, clearly that child was a handful. It is sad, but the grownup knows what he’s doing.”
Some of my most compassionate, caring friends argue that it is not right to bring an unwanted child into a world that is sure to be full of suffering. But even the most wanted babies may face tragedy and heartbreak. Isn’t even a tough life worth it?
Others argue a fetus is not really life because it’s not viable. Yet, when some of these same people become expectant parents and see their baby’s first closeup, they find themselves basking with the glow of new life. They don’t have fetus showers; they have baby showers. Why are babies alive only when they’re planned and wanted?
I have other friends who are amazing advocates for children; yet, they’re pro-choice. I’ve discussed about how this logic confounds me before. Once a child is lucky enough to make it to the shore of life, then she deserves the absolute best mothering. Breastfeeding is a baby’s best start! But, really, isn’t life a baby’s best start? Natural mothering is a beautiful, fruitful way to parent, but isn’t it the most natural thing of all for a woman to embrace her fertility and to give birth to a baby?
I fault pro-lifers, too, for sometimes shunning unmarried women or teenagers who are pregnant. “What went wrong?” they say, sadly shaking their heads. Nothing went wrong! Something went right! A miracle happened. I’ve heard of Catholic schools that force a pregnant girl to drop out of school or to be homeschooled (the same policy doesn’t apply to the young man who helped get her pregnant). That’s sending the wrong message. Let’s hide this sinful woman away. But all this is doing is suggesting that the baby is the sin. But a baby is never, ever a sin; a baby is a blessing even when it is conceived in pain or unexpectedly or without love. Saying “yes” to life brings new love, new potential, a new human being who can beat the odds to make his mark on the world.
Turtle hatchlings begin their march for life as soon as they chip their way through their eggshells. Our babies shouldn’t need a March for Life. Their life should be a given.
Until human life is seen more valuable to the world than reptile hatchlings, let us march. Let us rally together to give the unborn a voice until our babies are no longer endangered cloistered in their mother’s womb. Let us tirelessly defend inviolability of human life. Let us minister to women and recognize that they, too, are victims of pro-choice rhetoric and bear more than physical scars when a baby is scraped from their womb. Let us write our Congressman and let them know we will not stand for health care reform or any legislation that supports the expansion of federal funding for abortion. Let us fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. Because, really, isn’t it time we give human babies their own Endangered Species Act?