Philosopher David Boonin, author of A Defense of Abortion, writes: “A human fetus, after all, is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”1

That raises an important philosophical question: Given the humanity of the unborn, does each and every human being have an equal right to life? Or do only some have it based on some characteristic that may come and go within the course of their lifetimes?

Pro-life advocates contend there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you had no right to life then but you do now.

Author Stephen Schwarz developed the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences:

Size: You were smaller as an embryo, but since when does your body size determine value?

Level of Development: It’s true that you were less developed as an embryo, but 6-month-olds are less physically and mentally developed than teenagers, and we don’t argue that we can kill them.

Environment: Where you are located has no bearing on what you are. How does a journey of 8 inches down the birth canal change the essential nature of the unborn from a being we can kill to one we can’t?

Degree of Dependency: Sure, you depended on your mother for survival while in the womb, but since when does dependence on another human mean we can kill you? (Consider conjoined twins, for example.)

In short, humans are equal by nature, not function. Although they differ immensely in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature – and they had that human nature from the moment they began to exist.

If I am wrong about this, then human equality is a fiction. Think, for a moment, about your 10 closest friends. Would you agree that each of them has the same basic rights and that each should be treated equally? Yet if all of them should be treated equally, there must be some quality they all share that justifies that equal treatment.

What is that characteristic? Only this: We all have the same human nature.

We are all apologists now!

An apologist is not someone who runs around and says he’s sorry all the time. Rather, an apologist is someone who makes a case for what he or she believes. Doing so is biblical. We are told in 1 Peter 3:15 to “always be prepared to make a defence” for the hope that is within us.

We are all apologists now. The abortion controversy is not about a surgical procedure. It’s about a far deeper question: Who counts as one of us?

When feminist Katha Pollitt writes that abortion “is a good thing for society” because it’s “good for everyone” if women only have the children they want, pro-lifers must step up and ask: Are the unborn part of that society? And does “everyone” include the unborn?

We can’t let critics get away with simply assuming the unborn aren’t valuable human beings. The pro-life argument thrives on its clarity. Simply stated, it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

Now, step up and say it with confidence!

  1. David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) p.20.
© 2017 by Scott Klusendorf. Used by permission. Originally published at

Scott Klusendorf

Author of the *The Case for Life* Scott Klusendorf provides intellectual grounding for the pro-life convictions that most evangelicals hold.

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