Pro-life Persuasion: The SLED framework

This is the first of a two-part post on pro-life tactics. I covered this topic in Fight Death, Ep. 1. If you prefer to listen, click here.

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If you’re involved in the pro-life movement, you need to know about the SLED framework. If you don’t know it, you’re not as effective as you could be.

"Tactics" is an excellent book to help improve your pro-life persuasion tools.
Check it out on Amazon.

SLED is an acronym. It stands for Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. It comes from Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, author, and speaker with Stand to Reason. I learned of this from Greg Koukl; in fact, it was popularized by Scott Klusendorf.

(Even if you are not a Christian, I highly recommend Greg’s book “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.” Greg does a great job of explaining how to lay out a persuasive argument. I don’t agree with everything he says in there, but it is a fantastic book)

The SLED framework represents the four categories of differences between a pre-born and a born human being. Every difference between a human being before and after birth boils down to a difference in size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency. But a difference in one of these categories is not morally significant. That means if it would justify killing a pre-born human, it would equally justify killing a born one. Conversely, if it would not justify killing born humans, it doesn’t justify killing the pre-born.

Size — “It’s so small!” But just because someone is small doesn’t mean they are less valuable. If you put me in a room of NBA players, I will be the smallest guy in the room, but that doesn’t make me less valuable — it just means I’m smaller than they are. Small stature does not negate human status.

Level of Development — “But it’s just a clump of cells!” This is a silly, reductionist argument. We are all, in a sense, “just a clump of cells.” You and I are just more organized; we’re more advanced in our development. An infant is more advanced than an embryo, certainly, but a toddler is more advanced than an infant. No one should argue that we can kill an infant just because it hasn’t developed, for example, a sense of balance yet. Our level of development does not define our humanity.

Environment — “It’s in the woman’s body!” When I step away from my computer, I will run the trash to the dumpster outside, then come back inside to take a shower, then go to bed. Although my environment will change, my humanity will not. A pre-born human is no different: swapping environments to outside the womb does not change the nature of that child. Where we are does not change what we are.

Degree of Dependency — “But it’s dependent on the woman!” That doesn’t change at birth. Although others may assist, a born child is still entirely dependent on its mother for food, diaper changes, movement, and other care. Right now, in the age of COVID, we see thousands of human beings on ventilators. Their dependency is not sufficient cause to kill them. Nor is it sufficient cause to kill the pre-born child. We aren’t less human for needing one another.

Every difference between a pre-born and a born child falls into one of those four categories. None of those categories are morally significant differences: if the reason justifies killing a pre-born child, it also justifies killing a born child.

Now you have the basic framework you need to explain your pro-life views more persuasively. Up next: Trotting out the Toddler.

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One Reply to “Pro-life Persuasion: The SLED framework”

  1. You hear a lot too about lack of sentience. Also a lot of sidestepping concerning the value of the human being’s future. And ignoring medical textbooks. If anyone is not repulsed and moved by the sight of awful carnage, why would there be a better argument? Were there better arguments against death camps than the horrible images? I used to think women had better moral sensibilities than men. Once.

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