I grew up in a small town in northwest Ohio. I thought I was well versed in culture and experiences until I moved away. Once removed from my small bubble, I found that much of my experiential and cultural knowledge was relative to my hometown. Upon meeting a friend from a town of roughly 100 residents, I learned that even my claim that I was from a small town (12,000 people) was relative. environment
The way I talked, the way I dressed, what activities I enjoyed, my family’s socioeconomic status, what type of education I had, and even my beliefs were relative to my environment. While much has changed since I moved out of my hometown and into different experiences in life, the one thing that has not changed upon my transition from one location to the next is my value. Though my environment may change, my value as a human person remains the same.
That brings us to the E in S.L.E.D—environment. Pro-choicers argue that since the unborn is located in a different environment than a born human—inside of its mother’s womb instead of outside of it—it is less like a person and therefore has less right to life. It is true that environment affects many things, but a person’s environment or location does not determine their value as a human being.
Environment does not determine value.
It is in our sin nature to judge people who are more or less like us as ‘less than’ or ‘better than.’ But, according to God’s standard, all people are made in His image and should be valued as such (Gen. 1:27). When I moved from a very middle-class, republican, rural town in Ohio, to a low-income, bible-belt, more-rural-than-rural town in southeastern Kentucky, my sinful tendency was to think of these people as ‘less than’ me. God exposed my pride and lack of compassion and sanctified me greatly in that small, Mountain-town. As I grew in my understanding of their culture, I grew in my compassion for their struggles. And as I grew in my understanding of God’s love and care for the poor and lowly, I was convicted of my failure to imitate him in that way. Matthew 6:26 reveals to us how we should value our fellow human beings: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them? Are you not of more value than they?” If God cares for even the lowliest of His creatures, how much more does He value humans?
The value of every single human being, born or unborn, cannot be changed. Not by socioeconomic status, education, location, or skin color—nothing can strip us of our value as a human being. Why? Because only God can, and already has, set the standard of value for those whom He has created. No matter what our government says about immigrants and refugees, they have no less value because of their home country. The Gospel Coalition published an extremely insightful article asking “What Should Christians Think About Trump’s Refugee Policy?” This article challenges Christians to love their neighbors more broadly, rather than limiting their love and care only to those who share their faith and ethnicity/culture.
Environment of the unborn does not determine value.
Being pro-life extends to more than just the issue of abortion. How we talk about the unborn, as well as immigrants or refugees, the elderly or disabled, single parenthood or adoption, ethnicity, and the poor are all conversations connected to this battle for human value. But, in response to pro-choice advocates, primarily in the abortion discussion, the miraculous stories of preemie babies reveal that the environment of the unborn does not affect his or her value. With the technology and research available at the time of Roe vs. Wade, scientists pegged 28 weeks gestation as the marker for viable life outside the womb. That led to abortion being ‘justifiable’ until that point. However, new technologies, studies, and birth stories reveal that the marker for viable life is significantly prior to that point. The only environmental difference between a 24-week born baby and a 24-week unborn baby is the seven inches of distance it has to travel through the birth canal from the womb to the outside world. This difference has no influence on the value of that human being.
If you google preemie birth stories, you can find countless miraculous stories (with pictures!) of these precious, valuable humans being born and surviving as early as 21 weeks. And yet, their ability to survive is not what defines their value. Viability, or the ability to survive or live successfully, does not determine value. Environment affects viability— there is no doubt—but it does not determine a human’s value. For instance, a grown adult in a third-world country without access to food and water would not be considered viable. Does a lack of access to basic human needs justify their killing? Absolutely not!
The difference of environment between a 24-week unborn baby and a 24-week born baby (or any week gestation for that matter) is not a factor in determining that baby’s value. In the womb or outside the womb, that human being was created in the image of God. The environment changes nothing of the baby’s value. A Syrian, whether in Syria or in the U.S. as a refugee, is no less valuable than even the most powerful of U.S. citizens. She, too, is a human created in the image of God, and the environment around her changes nothing of her value.
Environment is no test of value—there really is no test at all. God has said it; therefore, it is true: human beings have value because they are fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness (Ps. 139:14-17). Let no one say differently lest they speak against the Almighty God.