The following material is reprinted from Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching: Living as a Disciple of Christ by Sarah Kisling (Ave Maria Press, 2015). Share this material with your students. You may consider role playing debates between pro- and anti-abortion points of view while allowing students to practice using incorporating the evvidence using natrual reasoning that follows in the material below.

Most people would agree that killing an innocent human life is a moral wrong. A more tricky issue involves defining the meaning of human life. The Church teaches, and modern science agrees, that human life begins at the moment of conception. Would you be able to explain why this is true? Use the acronym S.L.E.D.—size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency—to help you make a good argument that an unborn baby (known scientifically as a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus) and a born baby are both human persons. The acronym can help you explain why.

  • Size. A small child is no less human than an adult. An extremely tall NBA player is no more human than someone of average height. No one would argue that harming a small child is less of a crime than harming a larger one; in fact, most would argue the opposite. That an unborn child is smaller than a born child has no bearing on his or her personhood.
  • Level of development. An unborn child is certainly much less developed than a born baby. However, one’s development does not determine one’s personhood. For example, small children do not have fully developed reproductive systems. And a high school student is intellectually less developed than a college student. Does that make any of them “less” human? Of course not. Therefore, being less developed does not make an unborn baby less of a person.
  • Environment. An unborn child is in a different environment than a born child. Nevertheless, where one is should not be the determining factor in who one is. Did you stop being you when you came to school this morning? What about when you walked from your bedroom to the kitchen? Then how does a journey of a few inches down the birth canal suddenly make an unborn baby human? Obviously, it does not. Therefore, environment has no bearing on an unborn baby’s personhood.
  • Degree of dependency. An unborn baby is undeniably dependent upon his or her mother. And yet, does being dependent upon someone or something make one less human? Even young children are completely dependent upon adults to survive.  What about adults who are dependent upon medication or caregivers to live? No one would argue they are less human. Therefore, merely being dependent upon another does not make the unborn baby less of a person.

In short, the differences between an unborn infant and born one are not morally relevant; they do not make the unborn less worthy of living than any other human.

Make a plan to share what you learned in the S.L.E.D. acronym the next time you are questioned about the rights of an unborn child or the morality of abortion.