What does it mean to be viable?  Viability is the ability to live, especially under certain conditions, or the capacity to operate or be sustained. So when someone says a pregnancy is viable, they mean that the child has the ability to live under certain conditions, or the capacity to operate or be sustained.

But here’s the rub.

What circumstances are they talking about?  And sustained for how long?

We all need certain conditions in orders to sustain life. For instance, none of us would live very long without food or water, or without a spacesuit on the moon. Many of us ned special conditions, like insulin or a pacemaker, to sustain us.

Babies need certain conditions too, like round the clock care. Some need special circumstances, like an incubator, a respirator, surgery or a wheelchair.

Then there’s the question of how long life will be sustained. No one knows. Some of us live longer, some shorter. The only thing we know for certain is that we have it on pretty good authority We’re all going to expire eventually.

The same is true for babies. New medical breakthroughs are constantly bringing us further down the road of reducing infant mortality rates. But no one is ever sure just how long anyone will live.

When someone says a pregnancy is not a viable, they usually mean that they don’t think the baby will live to an average adult age given normal care and circumstances. OK, so does that make that child less important? Less meaningful? Less human?


If you were diagnosed today with a fatal illness, would that make you not viable? Absolutely not. In fact, the meaning of your life just might be increased, and more poignant, because of its potential brevity.

There are three problems when someone calls a baby non-viable:

  1. The circumstances and duration of life are arbitrary, and made up by that person.
  2. They might be wrong. Many people have been.
  3. There is a sense that this life isn’t valuable, or human, just because it might be short. And that’s just not true.

Lots of people need special circumstances to sustain life and thrive. Let’s give every child every chance to live to the full, and not end their life just as it’s beginning.

Erin Brownback

Erin Brownback is an advocate for the goodness of God’s design for the family as the foundation of society. Her work focuses on the topics of gender, marriage, sex, life and parenting.

As a Consultant for Brownback Strategy and Communications, Erin has created strategic plans and messaging on pro-family, pro-life and other conservative issues for corporate and non-profit clients, members of Congress, Attorneys General, Family Policy Councils, potential Supreme Court cases, universities, and other organizations. Her long-term messaging plan for the Pro-Family Movement is positioned to transform society around family issues over the next generation, and her children’s book “Before Cherry Street” explores the wonder and science of each stage of gestation in a way that influences young minds to value human life at every stage.

Erin directed communications for the sanctity of life legal work of Alliance Defending Freedom, and is working on a PhD in Social Transformation. Her master’s degree is in Rhetoric and Discourse from Carnegie Mellon University, and she has a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Westminster College.