Although there are numerous defenses of the pro-life worldview, this series covers four major areas of pro-life apologetics. We’ve already covered a summary of the biblical and scientific arguments, so let’s move on to the philosophical.
As I have written and talked about numerous times before, Scott Klusendorf’s landmark book, The Case for Life, does a wonderful job of laying out the philosophical and ethical foundations for the pro-life worldview. I readily commend his book to you, and much of the content of this blog post is inspired by or pulled from his work. If you’re interested in more than just a summary, I encourage you to study Scott’s work.
The philosophical arguments for life must answer this crucial question: What does it mean to be human? Why does a human being, even at the moment of conception, deserve to be protected and defended? As our culture continues to wrestle with the value of human life, the answer to this basic question is becoming increasingly convoluted by humanist philosophies. We are not valuable because of subjective criteria. What does it mean to be human?
As you engage with friends and family about why human beings deserve to be protected at any age or stage of life, commit to memory the acronym SLED (Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependence).
Size: Can we kill another human being because of his or her size? Abortion advocates argue that we can. They justify the killing of the preborn by denying the personhood and value of a zygote (a fertilized egg) or a fetus (the Latin term for a preborn child) or even a full-term baby. This fatally flawed mind-set is reflected in countless national polls in which an estimated half of all Americans believe abortion beyond 20 weeks gestation should be illegal. In other words, in our collective mind-set, Americans place greater value on a 20-week fetus than they do on a 19-week fetus. Americans place greater value on a 20-week fetus than they do on a 19-week fetus. Click To Tweet
But human life isn’t an amusement park ride where size dictates whether or not one gets to enjoy the ride. Think about it—should size determine value? If we consider a 19-week-old fetus to be less valuable than a 20-week-old fetus, then shouldn’t we consider a 2-year-old to be less valuable than a teenager?
Common sense and a simple look at our culture defy this logic. Just think about the way a community mourns when a toddler dies. No one responds by pointing out that the child was somehow less valuable than his or her 10-year-old sibling, and therefore we should grieve less. On the contrary, the unbridled mourning that rightfully accompanies the death of such a young child is a poignant reminder that every life matters regardless of one’s age. It’s clear that the taking of a human life—whether that person has been alive merely 3 days or 33 years post-conception—is morally wrong.
Level of Development: Abortion proponents say preborn babies, particularly those in the first trimester, are not much different than a mass of abnormal cells—similar to a cyst or tumor. They often promote the idea that a zygote and fetus possess “potential” personhood, but they don’t become a “full person” until they are self-aware, have a heartbeat, are “viable,” can breathe outside the womb, etc. This position is utter nonsense.
First, human mothers don’t have a bovine, canine, or feline fetus developing in their womb. They have a human baby who from the moment of conception is a person—fully and completely—with his or her own DNA, and the same biological components that make up an adult human…just smaller.
Second, any attempt to determine value based on subjective developmental criteria is unethical. Viability is the valuation criterion du jour in our country—meaning, a baby can be killed before he or she can survive outside the womb. How long can an infant survive outside the womb without immediate, ongoing medical intervention from others? Viability is a made-up, subjective, worthless valuation criterion. A 2-year-old is less developed than a 16-year-old. So is the 2-year-old less valuable than the teenager because he or she is less developed?
The use of any imposed developmental criterion is pure and simple discrimination. We have laws protecting us against racial, gender, religious, or political discrimination. So why do we allow developmental discrimination?
Environment: Are you considered more valuable when you’re standing inside or outside your home? Not sure? That’s because you’re just as valuable regardless of where you’re located. So why do we think a preborn human is worth a fortune outside the womb but worthless inside it?Are you considered more valuable when you’re standing inside or outside your home? Not sure?… Click To Tweet
Which baby has a right to life: the baby born alive at 23 weeks, or the 24-week preborn baby? According to abortion advocates and the law, the baby born prematurely and living outside the womb has a right to life because it would be considered murder to kill that baby. This is absurd! Why does a journey down the birth canal magically transform a human from worthless to worthwhile?
Scott Klusendorf uses this analogy: Suppose a woman in New York is pregnant with a 22-week-old fetus. She flies to Kenya and returns home a week later. Did her baby have human value while in New York because modern First World medicine could keep her baby alive if she’d gone into labor? Did her baby not have value while she was in Kenya for a week because doctors there might not have been able to keep her baby alive if she’d gone into labor? Did the baby regain value when the mother returned to the United States?
This is a silly argument. The baby has value regardless of his or her location.
Degree of Dependence: Do you have an elderly relative living in a care facility? If so, is that relative’s life worth less because he or she is more dependent on other people?
Abortion advocates say that because preborn babies are dependent on their mothers for life—i.e., babies cannot care for themselves—then mothers should have the right to kill their babies in the womb. There are two problems with this argument. First, personhood isn’t determined by independence. Most of us don’t become truly independent until we graduate from college and/or secure a job. (And sometimes not even then!) A majority of teenagers and young adults today still rely on their parents to help provide the necessities of life: food, shelter, and clothing. And those with certain disabilities are dependent on others, as are many elderly people. But we don’t advocate killing them just because they are dependent.
Second, the degree of dependence argument used by pro-abortion advocates presumes that mothers have absolute power over life and death. We are told, “It’s the woman’s body; she can do anything she wants with it.” The answer to such thinking is, “No, she can’t because no it’s not.” The tiny person developing inside a woman’s body is not her body. As Klusendorf argues, if a preborn baby is part of a mother’s body, then the mother should have four eyes, four arms, and four legs. That’s ridiculous. The tiny body growing inside the womb of a pregnant woman belongs to the person growing in that womb. Although they are dependent on their mother, preborn babies are separate and distinct individuals. And just because mothers have the means and legal right to kill their baby, that doesn’t make it right—nor does an unjust right make it right.
Preborn babies are one of us—fully human and created with intrinsic value. To use a biblical analogy, they are our neighbors (see Luke 10:25–37). We cannot walk on the other side of the street and pretend thousands of preborn babies aren’t killed in America every day. We cannot stand idly by while this silent holocaust continues in our country.
We must offer a better alternative—a worldview that upholds the humanity of every person, born or preborn, and celebrates a culture of life.We must offer a better alternative—a worldview that upholds the humanity of every person Click To Tweet
I look forward to receiving your feedback in the comments section below.