Yesterday was my final day in a series of Values Clarification seminars, where we focused exclusively on attitudes toward abortion. My values about abortion are extremely clear, unlike most other issues in my life where there may be many gray areas. However, I find that it is often the case, even with people who identify as pro-choice, that people have their own limits. Their own boundaries with abortion, when things start to become fuzzy. Unclear. With the rise in technology, it has been said that the viability of a fetus will continue to be earlier and earlier. Do your values change if a fetus is viable at 20 weeks? Should there be limits to abortion procedures? 35 weeks?
In my opinion, no. I constantly try to re-evaluate where I stand on all facets of the pro-choice abortion movement, and I am still in favor of protecting the right of the woman until the first breath is taken, when the baby is born. For me, I have remained clear on this for some time, but realize that even within our community, people feel differently about these issues. About the possibility of fetal pain, injecting the fetal heat with digoxin to stop the heart beat, and how late in the pregnancy is too late to terminate.
I think, especially in our field, it is important to engage in values clarification activities. I have posted an exercise below that is useful when clarifying attitudes towards abortion in a fairly homogeneous group of pro-choice individuals, but can also be tweaked for a more heterogeneous group to fit the values of people who are unclear about their stance on abortion. This activity can also be done with a middle alternative or a scale, in case people don't feel strongly on either the agree or disagree side. Also, if a room is available, the statements can be read aloud and people move to sides of the rooms that are labeled in a continuum with "Agree" "Unsure" and "Disagree" and can stand where ever they feel most comfortable.
Do you Agree or Disagree with the following statements:
1. Every woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy regardless of when during the pregnancy.
2. Abortion should be allowed even beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy.
3. Parental consent should be required for any teen under the age of 18 requesting an abortion.
4. Women who have more than 5 abortions are irresponsible.
5. Women who have more than 10 abortions are irresponsible.
6. Women should not use abortion as a form of birth control.
7. I think reproductive health advocacy organizations should promote the use of emergency contraception in order to decrease the number of abortions in the US each year.
8. I feel uncomfortable if a woman has an abortion because of the gender of the pregnancy.
9. Male partners should have the right to be a part of the decision to terminate a pregnancy.
10. I think a woman's right to choose to have an abortion is an absolute and inalienable right no matter what.
One more activity to sit with is an open-ended finish the sentence:
1. Abortions are:
2. Women who have abortions are:
3. A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy needs to:
4. In this country, abortion should be:
5. People working to restrict abortion should:
6. People working on behalf of women's right to choose should:
I personally really liked this activity, and encourage everyone to fill it out, THEN take it to your work place (if possible), your family, friends of whoever else in your community and get the conversation started!
Have you clarified your values today?