Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The SLED Test: Not Just a Winter Sport

One of the most valuable sessions I remember attending during RCIA (the program by which adults enter the Catholic Church) was the one on the Church's position on abortion. As a Christian, a parent, and a self-described thinker, I already knew my own stance on abortion. In fact, I served as a volunteer counselor at the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Mesa for about eight months, for which I was required to attend some pretty extensive training on the topic. But until that RCIA session, I had never heard of the SLED test, a four-pronged argument for the unborn's right to life beginning at conception. Perhaps you are already familiar with it; if so, fabulous! But since it was new to me, I thought it might also be new to others, and since I find it an extremely sound argument, I'd like to pass it on. (And to give credit where credit is due, the test was created by author Stephen Schwarz in "The Moral Question of Abortion.")

The basic premise is that those in utero differ from those of us who are "ex utero" in a limited number of ways. We can all (probably) agree that we ex-uterites possess basic human rights, including the right to life. So let's compare ourselves with the in-uterites in these four ways:

S - Size

L - Level of Development

E - Environment

D - Degree of Dependency

Size: A toddler is smaller than me. I am smaller than Shaquille O'Neill. Does Shaq win? Or do all three of us have the same human right to life? Does a fetus or an embryo lack that right because of its size? Because it doesn't have enough cells yet?

Level of Development: An 8-year-old is less physically developed than me. I am less physically developed than Dolly Parton (if you know what I mean). My pre-schooler is less mentally developed than me. I am less mentally developed than Stephen Hawking. Are we going to let Stephen and Dolly live, but not the kids and me? While I'd sort of like to see the two of them ruling the world together, it doesn't make much moral/logical sense. Neither does withholding the right to life from the unborn.

Environment: Did you know that there are modern-day cave dwellers? Wouldn't you say they have the same rights as the mansion-dwellers in Malibu? Or let's think about astronauts in space--do they check their human rights at the atmospheric door? No. So why would we deny someone human rights just because their home happens to be a uterus?

Degree of Dependency: Our government has gone to great lengths to protect the rights of the disabled, who have a different degree of dependency than the rest of us. At one time or another, even as adults, probably all of us have been dependent on others for our very lives. Does it mean we relinquished our rights during those times? Does an embryo/fetus lack the right to life because of its sole dependence on its mother?

Last, I'd like to add that DNA is determined at conception. Even if you consider an embryo "just a clump of cells," it is a clump of cells that is genetically unique. So whenever I hear someone argue pro-choice by saying, "A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body," my response is, we're not just talking about her body. We're also talking about another genetically unique being within her body. Which some might also have the audacity to call her child.

If you are already pro-life, I hope you find this argument helpful. If you are not, I hope you find it intriguing and (I especially hope) convincing.


  1. Great argument! hear, hear! Now having been pregnant and giving birth, I cannot imagine terminating any pregnancy. Life is so precious. Today I saw a little boy with a severe facial deformity that he had from birth, and I was privileged to listen as my friend explained to her 5-year-old son why the other boy was that way, and also lovingly encourage him to see the person beyond the handicap. What if that pregnancy had been terminated? The little boy playing in the water was as happy and fun-loving as the more "normal" boy... But does one deserve life more than the other?
    So glad you wrote this one :)

  2. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of life - always!


  3. Sarah, I really enjoyed reading this post - I had never heard of this SLED argument before. I agree with you. I am pro life myself and could never imagine terminating a pregnancy and killing my baby (and I consider it a baby from the first moment). The only thing I struggle with is if it should be the law or not, because I think it would be even worse if it were illegal (think Dirty Dancing abortions... very unsafe.. as half the abortions in the world are right now) ...

    Also what I struggle with is why the abortion argument holds so much weight in U.S. political discussions when even during 8 years in the presidency, George W. who is pro-life could do absolutely nothing about the Supreme Court decision which legalizes it. Life matters at all stages, from the womb to the old age home bed - that's why I also disagree with the wars we have going on now, I disagree with forgetting about poor children, the elderly, the disabled, etc. All of life is precious. (Is it possible less people would have died 2000-2008 if Al Gore had been president, and we didn't kill 100,000 people in Iraq as we did with GWB in office? Abortion numbers would have been the same either way. Just as one example. It's like each party allows their own form of death and destruction, while disavowing the other form.)

    I wish everyone could use common sense, compassion and respect for all life and, not because of the law but because of their own conscience, carry their baby to full term. Changing U.S. laws to actually make abortion illegal may be necessary to stop these millions of deaths since people obviously don't make this decision on their own. At least if we could get it illegal except for maternal health, that would eliminate (I would think) all the abortions that are for vain and selfish reasons. It would be a step in the right direction on the single most polarizing issue in America... something most people could agree on.

    Sorry, way too long of a comment. lol!

  4. Thanks for your comments, Jenny. All of life is definitely precious and should be protected. And it is kind of depressing that even with 8 years of a "pro-life" president, our nation's laws on abortion didn't change. Maybe I'm rather idealist (and maybe rather ignorant), but I still think there's a chance that if enough people's hearts and minds are changed about this issue of right to life, it would eventually have an impact on laws. And I would hope on some small level to be advancing that change. Plus, I think probably every Catholic church prays for this at almost every mass, along with thousands of other people...I have to believe God hears all of those prayers.

    I also totally understand what you mean about how our country has not protected life in so many other important ways and how abortion is the one hot-button issue we focus on. For myself, it just happens to be my "pet" cause, having volunteered at Crisis Pregnancy Center and spoken with so many women who were at that crossroads considering abortion. But I feel it is also in a somewhat different category than the deaths in Iraq (senseless though most of them probably were) because there are over a million abortions--that is, lives lost--in the U.S. each year. So by sheer numbers, the toll is greater. Also, these are lives that were never even given a chance. To me, that makes the situation that much more tragic.

    At any rate, thanks for the reminder that being pro-life means more than just being anti-abortion.

  5. Sarah, that is a good point... I am usually an idealist myself so I am going to agree that people waking up to what abortion really is can eventually happen... good thought! And prayer.

    And you are different than a lot of people who just vote on abortion because they listen to certain sources that make them think it's the only issue in the world. I love that you have actually given of yourself volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center and you're thinking about all of this stuff a lot more critically than others. I appreciate you! Keep trucking on and don't listen to naysayers like me. lol I am just trying to reconcile a lot of information and perspectives and stories. I usually don't for sure know what I think about things. lol

  6. Love this Sarah. I've never heard the argument quite like that before. And SLED? How easy is that to remember the next time I get into a heated emotional debate with someone? Awesome!

  7. Easy and nice explanation i must say.

    Ive always been anti-abortion coz i also believe its a life you know.
    When i met my fiance i decided that if anything did happen id abort but due to being anti-abortion we took double precautions.

    You may not want kids but then USE contraceptives so the unborn life has a choice!! I try so hard to teach other women and girls this!!!!!

    Im glad i can say nothing has ever happened and when i have kids i can say i wanted you and youre here thats why we waited and were extra safe, instead of we just have sex without thinking and when poo hits the fan i wana ABORT ABORT ABORT