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Imagine this scenario (if you aren’t a parent, just bear with me): You are sitting in your favorite chair, absorbed in a good book or magazine. Your son has been off playing by himself when he suddenly runs up to you and asks, “Mommy/Daddy, can I kill this?” Without looking up from your book, what do you need to know before you can answer him?

Obviously, you would ask him “What is it?” Is it a cockroach? “Sure, go ahead.” Is it a spider? “Quick, get a shoe!” Is it the pet cat? “Um, no.” Is it his baby sister? “Certainly not!!”

Before we can decide if it’s alright to kill something, we need to know what kind of being it is. In a previous post I critiqued the 180 documentary because I felt it didn’t make this clear. In this post I hope to give you a simple argument you can use that will shed light on this issue.

First of all, an appeal to the basic scientific facts can help you answer the “What is it?” question. From the moment of conception, an embryo exhibits all the characteristics of life: metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction. She carries human DNA with a unique genetic signature that is distinct from her mother, father and other living organisms. She also has the innate ability to proceed through the entire sequence of human developmental stages. These are simple biological facts: an embryo is alive and an embryo is human.

This certainly answers the question of what kind of being the unborn is, but it may not be easy to remember when the pressure is on. So if you get nervous and your memory fails you, it might be a good idea to pull out The SLED Test.

S – The S in SLED stands for Size. Is a toddler less valuable than a teenager? Are women less valuable than men? Obviously, size doesn’t equal value.

L – The L stands for Level of Development. Is a 1 year old girl less valuable than her mother because she is not yet capable of reproducing? Is an 8 year old less valuable than his father because he isn’t capable of understanding how to operate a car? Value is not determined by our abilities.

E – The E stands for Environment. Does your value change when you cross the street, or roll over in bed? A seven inch trip down the birth canal does not magically bestow value. Where you are – in the womb or out – has no bearing on who you are.

D – The D stands for Degree of Dependency. Is my father less valuable than I because he relies on insulin to survive? Is my husband more valuable than his grandfather because he doesn’t require a pacemaker? Viability doesn’t determine worth.

Memorize this little acronym and you will be on solid ground, and have much greater confidence, when you find yourself in a discussion about abortion.


The SLED Test acronym, and the arguments that go with it, were developed by the thinkers at Stand to Reason.