Tag Archives: human coalition

D is for Degree of Dependency – the Case for Life

The Case for Life: Degree of Dependency

Sean Martin

[24 March 2015]

Abortion supporters often claim that a baby’s inability to survive outside the mother’s womb should automatically justify abortion. The issue is that the child is still fully dependent on the mother, or, as it is sometimes explained, the fetus is not “viable.”

There are major problems with this line of thinking. First, if the standard for being worthy of life is the ability to survive “on our own,” when do any of us really become independent? Children at later stages of pregnancy and even after birth are still completely dependent on their mothers for protection and food. People with disabilities or certain illnesses are also dependent on caregivers, medications and machines.

Second, the assumption that a mother can choose to end her baby’s life simply because of the baby’s degree of dependency presumes the mother’s absolute power over the baby accords her the right to do what she wants with him or her. This harkens back to the “might makes right” rationale that dictators and tyrants have used to oppress and slaughter innocents throughout the ages.

Personhood is not imparted to us when we gain the ability to care for ourselves, nor do we lose our personhood when we age and become dependent on the young to care for us. The very young, the very old, the very sick or the very weak are no less human than those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and strong. We cannot make a determination about people’s value based on how dependent they are at a given moment. The baby in the womb—regardless of degree of dependency—should be allowed to live.

E is for Environment – The Case for Life

Sean Martin

[24 March 2015]

Environment, better understood as the location of the baby, is the E in SLED. When babies are born they move from their mother’s uterus to the outside world. But should the timing of this move determine whether they should live or die?

Infamous Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murdering three children after they survived his attempts to abort them. Gosnell fully intended to kill these children when they were still inside the uterus; he was only charged with murder because they were no longer in the “environment” of the womb. (Had the abortions been “successful,” the deaths of these three children would have joined Gosnell’s 21 felony convictions for performing illegal abortions after Pennsylvania’s 24 week limit.) The murder charges—and in the eyes of the law, the personhood of the child—were determined solely by the child’s environment.

E is for Environment

Biologically, using the environment of the womb to determine personhood is absurd. Is a baby born prematurely at 23 weeks more worthy of life than a baby still in the womb at 24? Yet the law protects one and not the other. Although certain trespassing laws (including variations on the Castle Doctrine) take a person’s physical location into account, it is unfathomable to consider a baby trespassing in the womb, and thus forfeiting the right to live.

It is critical that we understand the logical implications of pro-abortion arguments and communicate them clearly. Many pro-abortion ideas seem ridiculous as soon as they are examined for any length of time. Things are really not that complicated when it comes to life and death. Environment, or location, is never an excuse to take a life.

L is for Level of Development – The Case for Life

The Case for Life: Level of Development

Sean Martin

[18 March 2015]

The L in the SLED acronym stands for level of development. Many abortion advocates dismiss unborn children, particularly during the first trimester, as a mass of cells or a blob of tissue. This incredibly imprecise reasoning suggests that there is no moral difference between an embryo or fetus and a tumor or cyst, because of the baby’s level of development.

Every one of us began as a couple of cells that naturally developed into the complex bodies we now have. For thousands of years, this process was a mystery. We now know, thanks to the rapidly advancing science of embryology, that development actually begins at conception (T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition) and progresses very rapidly. By implantation (5-8 days) the embryo has gone from two cells to several hundred! By about three weeks, the heart is beating. By seven weeks, facial features, fingers and other details are visible.

Clearly, even a tiny embryo is biologically different from a cyst or a tumor. So the question for the abortion advocate is, at what point is a baby developed “enough” to have the right not to be killed? Some argue that because embryos are not self-aware or cannot “think,” they are not persons. Yet people with certain disabilities or brain injuries also may not “think” in the way that most of us do, but few believe that is a reason to end someone’s life. Newborn babies aren’t as self-aware as two-year-olds, and six-year-olds are not as self-aware as adults. Where do we draw the line?


In reality, we all develop differently, with different abilities and shortcomings. If we allow those in power to determine the threshold of ability that gives us a right to life, we will head down a dark path that has been repeated throughout history and never ends well. We must cherish each life—however it develops—as a gift from the Creator.

S for Size – The case for Life

The S in the SLED acronym stands for size. All of us began our lives as a tiny fertilized egg, or zygote, invisible to the naked eye. Over the years, the “smallness” of unborn babies has been cited to justify their murder.

Biologically, the human zygote is indisputably a member of the species Homo sapiens. Zygotes grow remarkably quickly and within 5-8 days implant in the uterine wall. Although the cells divide and differentiate, they have their own distinct DNA from the point of conception. Thus there is no genetic distinction between a person as a zygote, a newborn, and a full grown adult.

So does the size of a person dictate his or her right not to be killed? Is there are moral distinction between killing a tiny human and killing a larger human? Certainly, we reject this idea outside the womb. We would never say it was permissible to end a toddler’s life because he or she did not yet weigh 30 pounds or hadn’t grown 3 feet tall. We don’t believe little people are less worthy of life than basketball players or runway models.

In short, no sensible person believes that size alone determines personhood. We do not consider a baby who weighs 4 pounds at birth to be less human than one who weighs 10 pounds. Thus there is no moral difference between killing an unborn baby and killing any other person based on size alone. Next week, we will address the argument that abortion is permissible because of an unborn baby’s level of development.

Making the Case for Life

For decades, the argument over abortion has been mired in manipulative rhetoric, political posturing and general confusion. But while the politics and emotions surrounding abortion are exceedingly complicated, the moral issues at stake are shockingly simple.

There are certainly biblical arguments that can be made for the pro-life stance. We can point to the reality that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and to the passage where David speaks of being knit together in his mother’s womb (Ps. 139:16). We can look to the prophet Jeremiah claiming that before he was born God knew him (Jer. 1:5).

When Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton made it illegal to restrict abortion at any stage of pregnancy, ultrasound technology was just emerging as a diagnostic tool in obstetrics. Today, high resolution ultrasound and fiber-optic cameras have rendered the myth of the “mass of tissue” unsustainable, even just a few days after conception.

In the era of modern medicine, the question is not whether unborn babies are human or alive, but rather whether they are persons with the right not to be killed. Human civilizations have spent centuries debating when it is morally permissible to take a human life. The Code of Hammurabi (Babylon, 1754 BC) prescribed the death penalty for stealing even small items. The Analects of Confucius (China, 5th Century BC) generally opposed the death penalty, while making possible exceptions for grievous sins. Other societies throughout history have favored the sacrifice of human innocents when they believed such actions would appease their gods.

The West too has grappled for ages with the implications of the Judeo-Christian idea that all human beings bear God’s image and thus carry equal value and have equal right to life and liberty. Slavery, serfdom and various forms of segregation have all been debated and ultimately rejected as incompatible with the notion of equal protection under the law. So what justifies the killing of an unborn human being?

The SLED Test

Making the Case for Life

Many years ago Stephen Schwarz, in his book The Moral Question of Abortion, used the acronym SLED (Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency) to explain the actual differences between unborn and post-birth humans.

In the coming weeks, we will examine each of these differences to show simply and clearly how the unborn deserve protection.

an ongoing testimony of God's grace