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Republican senator compares women to sea turtles and eagles in antiabortion speech

Montana Republican Steve Daines compares animal eggs to babies during an abortion debate on the Senate floor.Screen capture

Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana compared human fetuses to sea turtles and eagles in a speech where he railed against efforts to protect abortion rights on the Senate floor Tuesday.

The short clip of Daines outlining the criminal penalties for those who take or harm the eggs of the animals to advance his antiabortion stance quickly went viral online, generating both backlash and bafflement.

“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 pre-born baby sea turtle or a pre-born baby eagle,” Daines said. “Yet when it comes to a pre-born human baby, rather than a sea turtle, that baby will be stripped of all protections in all 50 states under the Democrats’ bill we’ll be voting.”

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Daines later followed up with a tweet where he doubled down on his remarks, attaching the same photo he had blown up next to him during his speech of several sea turtles and human babies. Many on social media appeared perplexed by the analogy.

“If human babies were born by hatching out of eggs, I’m fairly certain we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Jorge A. Caballero, the co-founder and analytics lead of Coders Against COVID, tweeted. “Hearing anti-abortion politicians explain the logic behind their stance is ... revealing.”

In the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion pointing to the high likelihood of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision being overturned, Democrats are pushing forward legislation — coined the Women’s Health Protection Act — that would codify the abortion rights enshrined in the 1973 ruling.

The Senate is expected to take a vote on the bill Wednesday, although it is all but certain to fail, with Democrats lacking the the 60-vote supermajority required to defeat a Republican filibuster. With that knowledge in hand, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has framed the vote as a public check on where elected officials stand on the contentious issue.

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“The American people will be watching the Senate closely tomorrow, and they will not forget how their elected Senators voted,” Schumer said on the floor Tuesday. “I ask my colleagues to think carefully about their vote, to grapple with the impact of a world without Roe, because all of us will have to answer for this vote for the rest of our time in public office.”

Republicans have remained united in their opposition to the bill. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are proposing a much more narrow version of the Democratic legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in an interview with USA Today over the weekend that a national abortion ban is “possible,” told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that the issue “will be dealt with at the state level.”

With the possibility of a half-century of abortion rights being eliminated, observers were quick to point out what they viewed as hypocrisy in Daines’s comparison.

“Among other things, because sea turtles and eagles don’t have constitutional rights as equal citizens of the United States but hey, apparently women don’t either,” Emmy Bengtson, a partner at Wavelength Strategy, tweeted.

Eric Garcia, a Democrat running for Congress in California, said Daines was “correct” because when “sea turtles are attacked something is actually done and people are held criminally responsible.”

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“Women on the other hand are called liars and get their Human Rights taken away,” he tweeted.

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Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.