An Overview of SLED

/ Commentary

By Alex Ruggles

The acronym SLED is commonly used by pro-life people when discussing abortion. The term denotes Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. Each of these characteristics of the preborn human are used by abortion advocates to legitimize and endorse abortion. The aim of this article is to outline that such arguments cannot be used in favor of abortion, as each is an utterly arbitrary measure of humanity and as such fails to capture the innate worth of each human individual.


If one were to argue in favor of abortion by saying a human at his earliest stage, in the zygote phase of development, was to be denied life, then a counter argument to this is, At what size or stage does a human begin to have the inherent right to life? Size, of course, does not determine worth; therefore, to argue size is indicative of humanity is to concoct an utterly arbitrary measure of humanity after a human life has already begun. The logical endpoint of such an argument creates two conclusions: It would firstly find that if human worth is directly related to size, then  tall people are more valued than short people, adults are more valuable than children, and that men are more valuable than women. All these conclusions are of course absurd. A second possible conclusion would be that human life begins to have value at a stage other than which it was created; what stage is this and what boundary size does a human have to reach to then be valued as a human being with inherent worth? If we are to value human life as possessing absolute worth,, then this human has to have inherent worth regardless of size.

Level of Development

A similar question may be asked, At what level of development does a human life have worth if it is not at the moment of conception when their development begins? What stage of development would an individual have to pass through to quality for this human right to life? Why does an individual only begin to have value after a certain stage and what stage is this? All valuations of life which occur after conception are arbitrary and subjective if we can agree that a human being has value by simply being human. We do not become more human, as we develop; no human grows if they are not already alive. A human being looks like a zygote at the zygote stage because that is the correct development of that particular human at that particular time. Human value cannot grow; a human either has value or they do not. When someone advocates abortion up to 24 weeks (for example, as the current UK law indicates), one may reasonably ask, 24 weeks from what and why at 24 weeks does this human being have the sufficient level of development to render it worthy of life?

Environment (or location)

Now, the argument abortion advocates use essentially renders a human life as less valuable (indeed for some advocates as having no value) inside the womb than out of it, as they would (hopefully) be congruent with accepting that killing a newborn baby is wrong. Thus, the argument must be that, by travelling through the birth canal a human being somehow becomes imbued with the right to life. This is erroneous; if an individual has inherent worth then their location should not matter — their value is not dependent on where they are but is integral to their very being. Sickeningly, abortion ensures that an environment in which a child should be safest is actually where they are most vulnerable. Bodily autonomy is often cited as a justifiable reason. But bodily autonomy for whom? Abortion violates a preborn baby's bodily autonomy in the worst possible way. That baby did not choose to be there, they did not appear in their mother out of nowhere through the result of their own actions. The baby is entirely innocent and we should give no one the death penalty, particularly the most innocent among us.

Degree of Dependency

Degree of dependency, which is arguably the central point of the abortion debate. Science incontrovertibly proves that a new human organism’s life begins at conception (fertilization). This debate can no longer be about when life begins, but can now only be about refuting the erroneous claim made by abortion advocates that abortion, the direct intentional killing of a human life, is acceptable because of the child's absolute dependence on their mother for continued life. A common argument in favor of abortion revolves around this point, and indeed the already cited UK law of 24 weeks is based on when a newborn child can survive outside of the womb, although even this is not an accurate basis for law since babies have been shown to be able to survive at 21 and 22 weeks.  The viability argument misses two key points.

Firstly, the reality is that a baby can only survive through their utter dependency on other individuals; indeed, a parent or guardian has a responsibility to nurture that child up until the age of maturity (commonly seen as 18). Even after that point, every human is dependent in some way or another on other individuals. Secondly, such a point fails to recognize that this vulnerability and dependency of a child, both born and preborn, entails a degree of responsibility to safeguard their inherent right to life rather than violate it. Indeed, the dependency of the child cannot result in it being morally acceptable to violate their inherent right to life; their very dependency creates a moral commitment for other individuals to safeguard and protect their right to life and to recognize the child’s innate value and creates responsibility to affirm and protect such worth.

To conclude, I will reiterate that science has incontrovertibly shown that life begins at conception and that this cannot now be debated. What SLED reminds pro-life advocates of is the common arguments for abortion and some simple counterarguments against them. The argument of dependency rendering abortion acceptable is erroneous; a baby’s degree of dependency can never justify abortion, but can only simply showcase our moral responsibility to uphold and protect that child's inviolable right to life. Moreover, using size, level of development and environment as arguments in favor of abortion are all arbitrary valuations of human life, and human life, which possesses innate worth, has absolute value regardless of these subjective and frivolous valuations.

We cannot call ourselves a civilized society if we kill the most innocent and vulnerable members of it.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.

An Overview of SLED
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